This was the day OL Reign fans were dreading — the NWSL Expansion Draft. Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC have joined the league and will begin play in 2022. Both clubs have made numerous moves, acquiring some major names via trade, and the expansion draft was another opportunity for both clubs to continue building out their respective rosters.
Some of the trades the expansion teams have made with the existing NWSL clubs have resulted in various levels of protection in tonight’s expansion draft. OL Reign acquired partial protection in a trade with Angel City FC last week, where OL Reign sent their 36th overall draft pick in Friday’s 2022 NWSL Draft in exchange for $25,000 of allocation money and an agreement from Angel City FC that they would not select a forward from OL Reign’s roster.
And if you need a reminder on which nine players OL Reign protected from this expansion draft, they are: Bethany Balcer, Alana Cook, Angelina, Jess Fishlock, Sofia Huerta, Rose Lavelle, Quinn, Phallon Tullis-Joyce, and Ally Watt.
So who has departed from OL Reign as a result of the 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft?
Angel City FC selected the midfielder with their first pick in the expansion draft. Weatherholt made 24 appearances in her two-year spell at OL Reign, mostly coming in as a substitute. In the four-game stretch in which assistant coach Sam Laity was the interim head coach in the 2021 season, Laity praised Weatherholt for her ability to do anything, everything, and all of the things that don’t show up on the stats sheet to close out a match.
San Diego Wave FC selected the defender/midfielder with their second pick in the expansion draft. Drafted by Laura Harvey in 2017 during her first stint as head coach of the Reign, McNabb made 80 appearances in her five-year career at OL Reign. McNabb has played in every position of the back line for the Reign, as well as defensive midfield. McNabb also claimed two goals in her OL Reign career, with her first coming in her second professional start.
OL Reign were always anticipating losing two players in this expansion draft. While the club certainly could have made separate deals with the two expansion teams to secure more protection, the depth of this roster which began being constructed in 2020, always suggested that the club was not in a position of need to make roster moves like other NWSL clubs have had to in terms of “damage limitation” because of the expansion draft.
It is sad to have to say goodbye to these two players, however with two new clubs joining the league and bringing the total number of teams to 12, it means a lot more opportunities for so many talented players to play. A lot of talent has never reached their full potential because there weren’t enough roster spots in the NWSL, but the arrival of two expansion clubs is a sign that those opportunities are going to be created along with the overall growth of the league on and off the field.