01/14 Update: The trade is official. Seattle Reign FC announced the trade with Sky Blue FC this afternoon, with forward Shea Groom coming to Seattle in exchange for Japan international Nahomi Kawasumi. Here are quotes from the incoming Shea Groom, the departing Nahomi Kawasumi, Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski, and Reign FC owner Bill Predmore.
Shea Groom: “I’m both humbled and honored to join the Reign family. It’s an incredible organization that breeds success in this league and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Nahomi Kawasumi: “Hello, our precious fans of Seattle Reign FC. I am going to play for Sky Blue FC this season. I tried to do my first challenge to play outside Japan in U.S.A. Seattle Reign FC gave me such a feeling that playing in NWSL is so fun!! My teammates, coaches, staff, fans, and the city of Seattle has been the best for me. Although I’m very sad to leave my favorite club, please say hello again because we are friends forever. I hope Seattle Reign FC will achieve a good outcome. I appreciate all of you, Seattle.”
Seattle Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski: “I’m thrilled to be working with Shea again. She’s a very talented player. She was an impactful player for me in Kansas City and I know she’ll fit in well in Seattle.”
Seattle Reign FC owner Bill Predmore: “Days like this are difficult – it is hard to imagine a Reign FC squad without Naho. Her leadership, professionalism, tireless work ethic, intelligence and extraordinary talent have ensured that she will be forever recognized as one of the all-time greats to have played for our club. Naho has always played with a joy that is infectious and a quiet intensity deeply respected by all her teammates. She will be missed. The decision to trade Naho was made in conjunction with Naho and her representatives. She expressed a need to maximize her playing time prior to the World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. We agreed that Sky Blue FC would be in the best position to provide her that opportunity, so we worked hard to affect that outcome on her behalf. Sky Blue FC is adding a truly great person and player – I know the organization and their fans will love and respect Naho as much as we do.”
Original story, 1/9: There have been teases by numerous NWSL reporters over the past few weeks that some big trades are set to be announced tied to this year’s NWSL College Draft, which takes place in Chicago on Thursday, January 10. Seattle Reign FC hadn’t been referenced as a contender for any of these player dealings.
That was until today, when Jon Lipsitz and Chris Henderson, who host a women’s soccer podcast together and focus on NCAA soccer, shared on Twitter that Sky Blue will be sending Shea Groom to Seattle in exchange for Japanese international forward Nahomi Kawasumi.
Chris and I can tell you that the word on the street is the first big trade to happen will be:— Jon Lipsitz (@jonlipsitz) January 9, 2019
SkyBlue sends Shea Groom to Seattle for Nahomi Kawasumi
Groom for Naho
This reunites Groom with a coach she had been tremendously successful with in the past.
Reign FC did not have a comment for Sounder at Heart this afternoon. A few sources did indicate the club tried to acquire Groom last season, but were unable to finalize a deal with Sky Blue that left both sides satisfied.
Kawasumi has featured in two stints with Reign FC, joining the team first on loan from INAC Kobe Leonessa for Seattle’s NWSL Shield-winning 2014 season, then signing with the Reign in the middle of the 2016 season. After appearing in every match for Reign FC in 2017, Naho’s playing time diminished in 2018, with only 11 starts and 3 appearances off the bench. If this trade progresses, she would finish her time in Seattle with 70 appearances and 18 goals scored.
Groom, meanwhile, would be reunited with her first pro coach, with whom she played in Kansas City from 2015 through 2017. Groom made 55 appearances for the Blues and scored 17 goals, as well as winning the NWSL Championship with them in 2015. Under then-coach Vlatko Andonovski, she also received her first call-up to the United States women’s national soccer team for a pair of friendlies against Switzerland in 2016, but did not feature in either game.
After FC Kansas City’s relocation to Utah before the 2018 season, Groom was traded to Sky Blue FC, where she made 21 appearances and scored two goals last season. She is a tenacious attacking player who lost a bit of her spark on a struggling Sky Blue side last year, but would be an enormous boost for Seattle’s attack—and would be playing under the coach who pushed her to become a fringe USWNT player.
While this news is still not confirmed, and therefore many questions remain including whether any other players or assets are involved, it is our guess that Kawasumi would likely choose to retire from the league rather than play for Sky Blue. That said, the writing was on the wall this offseason, after dwindling playing time in 2018 and with Reign FC holding too many international players heading into 2019.
We will update this post as more details are confirmed.