Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett might be unrestricted free agents this NWSL offseason, but that doesn’t mean that OL Reign is going to let them go easily.
On Tuesday, general manager Lesle Gallimore said the club has been in contact with both players “just about daily” since the end of the season. The issue, she noted, was the timeline in relation to the expansion draft. Free agents who are signed prior to the Dec. 15 draft will need to be protected by their clubs – while those who aren’t signed by clubs aren’t eligible to be selected by expansion teams Bay FC and Utah Royals FC.
But head coach Laura Harvey said that she’s been encouraging both players to explore their options in free agency.
“I just think that free agency is something that players should live through,” Harvey said. “I said this last year with our free agents: They should live through it. And I think the expansion draft adds an extra wrinkle to that, that they know that if they’re still free, they can’t be picked.
“So that gives them some power [over] their own destiny outside of wherever they choose their next destination to be.”
Former Portland Thorns star Tobin Heath opened up in the latest episode of “The RE-CAP Show” about being drafted by Racing Louisville in the 2020 expansion draft, which she described as her “biggest heartbreak.” Heath and co-host Christen Press also discussed the impact that the expansion draft can have on players.
“Sometimes players are really excited about it. Sometimes players want to move,” Heath said. “So then there’s the very opposite of that, where maybe there’s a player that has signed a long-term contract with a club, has invested time there, has put down roots there, and they are left unprotected and therefore could be picked up.
“And I think there’s a little bit of chicken and egg that happens, where clubs play some games seeing which players they can leave unprotected and still have the feeling that they won’t get picked.”
The added wrinkle of free agency, which started just last year in the NWSL, has made things interesting. Still, OL Reign hopes to bring both Sonnett and Lavelle back next year, Harvey said.
“I think everyone knows that we really value Rose and Sonnett,” she said. “They’re a huge part of our team. I think Sonnett’s evolution this year has been exceptional. And Rose obviously had a tough year, but you saw that at the back end of the season what she can do.
“They know that we love them, and we want them to stay here. But I do think that every player – and we advise them this – that they should live through free agency and see what it looks like for them.”