A chaotic NWSL off-season is upon us. With the expansion draft two weeks away in which Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC will build out their inaugural rosters for next season, there’s already been a flurry of moves league-wide as teams look to get ahead of, and in some ways minimize, their losses in that draft. With the existing NWSL clubs only allowed to protect nine players (including only one US allocated player), rosters will be shaken up. We’ll have to wait another week until OL Reign announce which nine players they will be protecting, but the club has announced one move for their 2022 roster with the acquisition of midfielder Nikki Stanton.
“I’m coming home! I’m so stoked to be a part of OL Reign. I have heard incredible things about the club,” said 31-year-old Stanton in a team release. “I also can’t wait to be coached by Laura Harvey and Sam Laity, who I have heard so many wonderful things about.” Stanton continued, “One thing that has always stood out to me about OL Reign is the unity within the group and the way they stand up for what they believe in. I’m really looking forward to being a part of this special team of players. To be living out my dream surrounded by my family and hometown friends is truly a dream come true!”
The trade sees OL Reign sending their natural third-round pick in the upcoming 2022 NWSL College Draft, one of four picks that they currently hold in that round, to the Chicago Red Stars. Stanton made 14 appearances for the Red Stars in 2021 with one start. In 2020 with no full NWSL regular season, Stanton logged 15 starts for Norwegian side Klepp IL, claiming two goals.
This will be a homecoming for Stanton, as the North Bend native was a standout soccer player at Mount Si High School and for Crossfire Premier before her NWSL career began at Sky Blue, and she also played for Seattle Sounders Women in 2012 alongside new OL Reign teammates Megan Rapinoe and Steph Cox.
Stanton is most often used as a holding midfielder or box-to-box midfielder. She featured in 40 games with Chicago during the 2018-19 seasons and played a key role in helping the Red Stars reach consecutive NWSL semifinals appearances and the club’s first-ever NWSL Championship appearance in 2019. She’s a strong tackler who told the Chicago Sun-Times that her 2020 season in Norway helped her improve her speed on the ball and strengthen her confidence and awareness.
“Bringing Nikki back home to the PNW is a great addition to our squad. She has a ton of experience in the NWSL and overseas. I’m really pleased Nikki will be part of our group,” said OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey.
Where Stanton will fit in the midfield for Harvey remains to be seen, especially without yet knowing who OL Reign could lose in the expansion draft and amid the general player movement that comes with every off-season.