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The Week in Women's Football: Big offseason moves; San Diego appoint Stoney; Spokane joins W-League

This week we look at some interesting major player moves between clubs in Europe, including some top stars. We also have breaking news that 2022 NWSL expansion franchise San Diego has signed former Manchester United manager Casey Stoney as their first ever manager. Finally, Spokane, Washington has joined the new W-League which will launch next season; the city which borders North Idaho is the first community to join the new league after the initial eight sides were announced last month, with an ultimate goal of 30 teams for 2022.

Interesting Recent Player Moves in Europe

Losada Moves from Barcelona to Manchester City

This week, we examine some recent player moves within Europe while the transfer windows are open in many countries, starting with a blockbuster signing by Manchester City of Spanish national team midfielder Vicky Losada from 2020-21 Women's Champions League winners Barcelona, where she captained the side. The 30-year-old signed a two year deal. Losada returns to the Super League after previously playing at Arsenal and said about her move, "I'm so excited for next season and to have been able to join one of the best clubs in the world. As soon as I had the offer from Manchester City, I didn't have any doubts about it—I knew that it was time to leave Barcelona and close that chapter of my career after one of the best years of my life. I've always said that I missed the English League—I feel like it brings out the best in me as a player. I am so excited to return to it now and be a part of this fantastic football club."

Losada has spent 15 years in Barcelona's first team across four different spells since the 2006-07 season, after an earlier spell in their famous La Masia Academy, with stops at Espanyol, Western New York Flash and Arsenal. In just over 18 months with the Gunners, starting in March 2015, she won the League Cup and FA Cup. At Barcelona she was a part of teams that won six league titles and seven Copa de la Reina trophies. Losada made 16 league starts in 31 appearances last season and scored three times as the Catalan club dominated the league, winning 33 of 34 games and scoring 167 goals.

Manchester City's manager, Gareth Taylor, said: "We're thrilled to have brought someone of her [Losada's] caliber to the club. Her winning mentality and desire to be at the top of her game matches our own ethos here at City, and the fact that she has already previously made her mark in the FAWSL speaks volumes about her adaptability. Vicky's experience in high-pressure situations will also be very important to the team as a whole as we aim to lift more trophies in the near future, and we're very much looking forward to working with her over the next few years."

Barcelona adds Paredes, Engen and Rolfo for 2021-22

Barcelona is re-loading ahead of the 2021-22 season, trying to defend their 2020-21 league and UEFA continental club trophies, having also lost French international midfielder Kheira Hamraoui, who left the club this summer after three seasons; Hamroaui could return to either one of her former sides Olympique Lyon or Paris St. Germain. Barca signed Spanish international defender Irene Paredes on a two year deal from Paris St. Germain, where she spent the past five seasons. Paredes played at the last two Women's World Cups and previously played for Basque region sides Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao.

Barcelona also inked Norway's international midfielder Ingrid Engen and Swedish forward Fridolina Rolfo (27), both from Wolfsburg in Germany. Engren (23) spent two years with Wolfsburg after leaving Norway and is seen as one of the developing top stars in Europe. For Rolfo, who will be in Japan with Sweden's Olympic side later this month; she won a silver medal at the 2016 games in Rio and bronze at the 2019 WWC in France with the Swedish national team. Rolfo signed a two year deal and previously played for Swedish clubs Jitex and Linkoping back home, before moving to Germany in 2017 to join Bayern Munich. She moved on to Wolfsburg two years later in 2019, which helped the club replace current Barça star Caroline Graham Hansen, who left in the summer of 2019 for Spain.

Thembi Kgatlana changes clubs in Spain

Also in Spain, South African international forward Thembi Kgatlana moved from Eibar to Atletico Madrid, signing a three year contract on July 7. She had 10 goals last season in 27 games. The 2018 Africa Women's Footballer of the Year has now played for Spanish side Eibar, Portuguese champions SL Benfica, the Houston Dash in America, Beijing BG Phoenix in China and at home for the University of the Western Cape. In 2019 she became the first South African player to score at the FIFA WWC when she scored a historic goal against Spain—the country she now plays in. Banyana Banyana national team coach Desiree Ellis says about Kgatlana's move: "She had a fantastic season at Eibar but I am super excited and looking forward to the next stage of Thembi's growth. She knows exactly what her next steps are to make her one of the best players around the world." Ellis also emphasized that a positive of Kgatlana's latest move was that she would be playing with other African stars, "She has joined a top team and will be playing alongside 21-year-old Rasheedat Ajibade of Nigeria—[who signed for Atletico on New Year's Day in 2020 from Avaldsnes in Norway]—and Ajara Nchout of Cameroon—[who has played in Russia, the NWSL, Sweden and Norway, joining Atletico this year from Norway, where she played at Valerenga]—which will make for an exciting strike force in trying to bring back the glory to the club whose men's team has just won the league and hopefully they can follow that success in the next season. We are super proud and may God continue to elevate her."

Banyana Banyana women's football star Thembi Kgatlana is moving from <a href='/clubs/eibar'>Eibar</a> to <a href='/clubs/atletico-madrid'>Atletico Madrid</a> Fememino

South African women's national team star Thembi Kgatlana is moving from Eibar to Atletico Madrid Fememino. Photo: FIFA Museum.

Earlier this month Thembi launched an autobiography entitled 'Strike a Rock' about her career to date as an inspiration for youth.

Polish international Weronika Zawistowska will go on loan from Bayern Munich to Cologne for 2021-22

In Germany's Frauen-Bundesliga, Poland's senior international midfielder Weronika Zawistowska (21) signed a three year contract this past April with Bayern Munich. She will spend the 2021-22 season on a full season loan at Cologne, who were promoted for the 2021-22 season and have former Bayern players Mandy Islacker (32), who scored 12 goals in 16 seasons in last season's promotion campaign, and Eunice Beckmann (29, who has been capped at the U-19 level by Germany and played in Spain, Sweden, the NWSL and at home in a long career) who will start her third season at Koln and second with the club in the top tier. Zawistowska won a league title at home with Gornik Leczna at home in 2018-19 before moving on to Czarni Sosnowiec and won the double there, with the Ekstraliga league title being the club's first in two decades.

Weronika Zawistowska of Poland and Aysun Aliyeva of...

Weronika Zawistowska is an exciting signing for the future of Bayern Munich. Photo: Mikolaj Barbanell/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

French international Ouleymata Sarr moves from Bordeaux to Paris FC in France

Turning to France, D1 Archema side Paris FC have acquired forward Ouleymata Sarr from fellow French side Bordeaux. Saar has signed a two-year deal with the capital club until June 2023. Sarr started her career with Evreux before joining PSG in 2013, where she spent four years. She then moved to Lille, scoring 14 goals in two seasons in French D1 Archema. In 2019, she joined Girondins de Bordeaux and has 29 top-flight goals in total in France. Sarr had 13 caps for the French women's national team with three goals. She is joining Nigerian international goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie (20), who joined the club in 2020-21 and played in 15 matches after leaving River Angels at home, and Swiss international Esosa Aigbogun (28), who chose to play for the country of her birth over her father's Nigeria and scored in the 2015 Women's World Cup in Germany. Aigbogun played at FC Zurich and FC Basel at home before moving to Potsdam in Germany and then to Paris FC ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Lyon announce triple signing of Danielle van de Donk, Signe Bruun and Christiane Endler

Lyon have made a major statement that they will make a strong push in the 2021/22 season to regain their long-held domestic and European Champions League titles from PSG and Barcelona respectively, with the announcement that they had made a triple signing of Arsenal and Netherlands international midfielder Danielle van de Donk (29), as well as Chilean international goalkeeper Christiane Endler (29) and Danish international forward Signe Bruun (23)—both from Paris Saint-Germain. Van de Donk played at Arsenal since 2015 when she moved from Goteborg FC in Sweden. Endler played collegiately at the University of South Florida in the States and had a short stint with Chelsea in the WSL in 2014 before playing in Chile, Spain and then signing with PSG in July of 2017. Brunn has been with PSG for three seasons after moving from Fortuna Hjorring at home. Endler has agreed a long-term contract with Lyon until the summer of 2024, while Bruun and Van de Donk have each signed two year deals until 2023.

An agreement in principle has also been reached to sign 23-year-old French international left back Perle Morroni (who played a few games with Barcelona on loan in 2018) on a three year deal, bringing a third PSG player south to Lyon. It was PSG that knocked Lyon out of the Champions League in 2020/21, ending a run of five consecutive titles, while they also finally broke Lyon's 14-year streak of French titles.

Eugenie Le Sommer, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Sarah Bouhaddi are all in the NWSL at sister side OL Reign on loan through November of 2021, so the new signings should help the club to start the new season strong. Other departures from Lyon this summer have included Japanese international Saki Kumagai, leaving after eight years to joinBayern Munich in Germany, while English international Nikita Parris has moved to Arsenal after two years in France.

There are reports that Lyon is making a strong pitch to acquire Gunners striker Vivianne Miedema, who is the WSL's all-time leading goalscorer. U.S. women's national team midfielder Lindsey Horan of the Portland Thorns has been linked with a move back to France, where she first turned pro as a teenager with PSG. Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati, who was the player of the game in Barcelona's sound defeat of Chelsea in the 2020-21 WCL final, has also been linked to the French powerhouse.

French League Player Moves to Finland and Portugal

Departures from the French League this summer have included former German U-17 international forward Leonie Pankratz switching from Montpellier to HJK Helsinki in Finland. The 31-year-old German defender played with Hoffenheim in the second and top divisions in Germany since 2010/11, except for a summer in Iceland with IBV and then last season with Montpellier.

Also bound from France to Finland is forward Linda Sallstrom (32) who is moving from Paris FC to HJK Helsinki. The Finnish international was at Paris FC for three seasons after playing in Sweden at age 20 and appeared first at Djurgarden in Stockholm, then Linkoping and finally Vittsjo. She should be on her country's EURO Finals side next summer and currently has 107 caps for her nation.

Defender Anouk Dekker has departed Montpellier for Portugal's SC Braga The Dutch international won the Women's EURO at home in 2017 and has won five Dutch Eredivisie titles and two in the BENE League [joint Netherlands/Belgium league that ran for a few years in addition to the domestic leagues] with Twente. She has been at Montpellier for six seasons since leaving Twente ahead of the 2015-16 season.

Reading have signed England striker Natasha Dowie following a season with AC Milan.

Former English international forward Natasha Dowie (32) returns to the Women's Super League side after five years abroad—playing in Australia, the States, Sweden, Norway and Italy—to join Reading after scoring 14 goals in 24 appearances for Milan last season. She previously played for Everton and Liverpool (as well as 3 games for Doncaster Belles in 2016), winning two league titles with the Reds. She was the WSL's leading scorer while with Liverpool in 2013 and scored five times in 14 caps for England. She explained her move back to the Super League, "After being away from the WSL for five years, it felt like the right time to come back. I can't wait for the season to start and to be able to play in front of all my family and friends again."

Wales international defender Gemma Evans (24) is also joining Reading after three years at Bristol City, which was relegated from the WSL after the 2020-21 season.

England's Casey Stoney will lead new San Diego NWSL side in the 2022 season.

In an announcement that has been expected for some weeks, on July 14 Casey Stoney was introduced by compatriot and former U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Jill Ellis—now the San Diego franchise team president—as the new head coach for San Diego's new NWSL franchise in 2022. Stoney previous coached Manchester United to 52 wins in 77 games across 3 seasons, winning the second division Championship title in her first season and leading the side to two consecutive fourth place finishes in the highly competitive FA Women' Super League. Ellis said about Stoney, a former English international player, "Casey is one of the most decorated, distinguished and talented English players of all-time and has transitioned seamlessly in her role as a manager. She immediately turned Manchester United Women Football Club into respected contenders and established herself as one of the top managers in the league. Casey has all of the qualities we want in our manager and she is fully committed to making San Diego NWSL a globally-successful club and brand led by powerful and talented women. We are thrilled to secure her as our manager and look forward to what she will bring to our club and city."

Casey Stoney is named as the first head coach of San Diego, which will join the NWSL in 2022. Photo Courtesy of San Diego NWSL.

Stoney told the media on a conference call on July 14 that she wants to approach the NWSL season with a strong defensive system, particularly as she played as a center defender in her career. "I think obviously watching the [NWSL] games, one of my big observations is it's so open, and the gaps and distances between lines is huge, which for players that play in pockets is great, but for me as a head coach—also as an ex-center back—I'd be horrified in terms of the distances in the lines. And yes, defending starts from the front, so it's a non-negotiable in my team that we work hard, we press, we win the ball back as quick as possible. Most games we'll go high, we go and win it back. I was a center back, you're normally the less technical players on the pitch, so why don't we go get pressure on them early? But I'd want my back four higher up the pitch or whatever system we play; I want the gaps reduced so there's less space for the opposition to play in, but I'm also very aware that I know teams will go behind you. So having a goalkeeper that can affect the space in front, having a back four that can read triggers, that can stay connected. Releasing fullbacks to stop crosses because there's a hell of a lot of crosses coming in this league, and that's a no-no. I'm like, 'don't let the ball come in the box, release your fullback,' [you've] got to be able to defend one-v-one." She continued her fascinating tactical discussion by explaining, "I build my foundations on two center backs and the one that sits in front, because they're the ones that stop transitions. They're the ones that stop and also start your attacks. And if you're gonna build through your No. 6 [defensive-midfielder], it's really important that they also need to be able to anticipate danger…tackle and be mobile. And you've [Americans] been blessed in that position, I would say, over the years of watching the American national team. Julie Ertz is one that I've watched closely and admired for many years. I think she's one of the best at it. But there's a lot of young players coming through that are also good in the American system that can do that role very, very well."

Stoney also talked about the importance of making a positive impression as a team in the community, "It has to be more about the impact you have on the community and the impact you have on people, the legacy that you leave as a player. I always said I wanted to leave the shirt in a better place. Now I didn't ever win a World Cup. I'd love to have, but I felt like I did my job and I left my shirt at a better place for the next person to take it, and that's about encouraging the fan base, the little girls that want to pick up a ball and play now because they watch our team play. It's about making sure that we create a culture where fans want to come in. It's a place where people feel welcome."

Stoney also emphasized the high standards that she will bring to her new club on and off the field, "I always say the Saturday or the Sunday or the Friday night game is a by-product of what you do during the week. I create an ultra-competitive environment where we score pretty much everything. We make sure that the players strive to be better, because there are things that go against you in the game. You can't be guaranteed to win every day. What you can do is work to win, and you can do it the right way with integrity. You can do it the right way with respect. I have non-negotiables as a coach. I believe in respecting everything and everyone. Everywhere we go, we should always leave people with a positive feeling. If we leave the dressing room it's swept and it's cleared. If we go somewhere we make sure we say hello, please, and thank you."

Spokane, Washington to join W-League

Last month we announced that the United Soccer League was relaunching an amateur W-League next season—bringing back—at least in spirit—the long running W-League which folded in 2015 (see: The Week in Women's Football: Northern Ireland and Scotland clash; San Diego granted franchise; Matildas squad for Europe trip - Tribal Football). At that time we announced eight teams had signed on but that as many as 30 were expected to join. Most of the original teams named were aligned with USL Championship or USL League 1 sides, as is expected with most clubs that join the W-League Spokane, Washington is an admirable exception—they were a PDL (amateur level—now called USL League 2) member on the men's side as the Spokane Shadow from 1996 to 2005, when their franchise was terminated because their artificial turf field at ancient Albi Field was deemed unfit for play. Albi, which seats over 28,000 and is 71 years old this year, has always had one of the worst turf fields ever constructed, with a high crown in the middle. Though the stadium has hosted a NASL exhibition in the 1970's and a few NFL pre-season games along with college and high school American football games, it has always been a venue that, even when refurbished, seemed to be a bit long in the tooth. It is planned to be demolished this year.

The city is also expected to join the men's third division USL League 1 in either 2022 or 2023. Cindy Wendle, President of USL to Spokane explained the team's entry into the W League, "We're incredibly excited to be able to create new opportunities for our community to be involved in women's sports. Enhancing gender equity and opportunity for women not only in competition but in all areas of sports management is paramount, and I am honored to be a part of the team bringing this amazing project to life."

Spokane will have a new 5,000 capacity downtown stadium completed in time for the 2023 season, which will also be used by five Spokane area high school football and soccer teams, as well as the USL franchises. The new downtown venue, which will be located on the banks of the Spokane River, and across the street from the Spokane Arena [hockey and basketball], will be managed and operated by the Spokane Public Facilities District, and developed in conjunction with Spokane Public Schools. An economic impact study, provided by the Downtown Spokane Partnership in February, projected that the downtown stadium would provide an annual economic impact to the community of $11.4 million. Additionally, a survey that was released by the Spokane Public School Board in April showed that the resounding majority of residents supported the downtown stadium development.

Spokane had a three women's side in the WPSL over the years—the Spokane Black Widows [truly one of the worst names ever], Spokane Shine and Spokane Shadow. The Shine won a division title about a decade ago, but while on the phone with their head coach a few days after they clinched, he said that they were not participating in the WPSL Playoffs that weekend as they lost some of their players who were recalled to their college pre-season training. They won't be able to do that sort of thing in the W-League, which always had strong standards and commitments, unlike the WPSL which is always changing schedules—even this season a local team in Arizona switched a game four days earlier with no warning. The budget for the W League team will probably be 2-4 times what most WPSL teams spend, which typically is in the $30,000 to $50,000 range for the short summer season.

Spokane has been growing on the women's side in recent years and Gonzaga University is becoming a force in the West Coast Conference and even had a player capped at the full international level by Argentina this year (see: The Week in Women's Football: Interview with Argentina midfielder Braun; Davis moves to Israel; Ifill appointed Samoa coach; - Tribal Football). The addition of a new stadium in the city and a W League team—along with a higher level men's side—will help to continue the growth of the sport in a lovely part of the Pacific Northwest.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get yours copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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