Red Star Yuki Nagasato became eligible for free agency Friday and Saturday scored two goals. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Red Star Yuki Nagasato became eligible for free agency Friday and Saturday scored two goals. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pro Soccer Report: NWSL approves free agency, says players can negotiate with other teams during season

By Jeff Vorva
Staff writer

Things are getting serious in the NWSL.

Free agency is now a thing and, in its first day, controversy abounded. And it affects the Chicago Red Stars.

On Friday, the NWSL released a list of 26 players who are eligible for free agency. That included Red Stars veterans Yuki Nagasato and Kealia Watt.

However, the NWSL Players Association released a list of its own and it hat includes 22 more players it deems eligible, including Chicago’s Danielle Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, Morgan Gautrat, Rachel Hill, and Arin Wright.

The league said it granted free agency for those with at least six years of service who have expiring contracts after the 2022 season. The union contends that players with option years on their contracts should also be granted free agency.

The union plans on taking it to arbitration in September, according to reports.

Meanwhile the league and union engaged in a strange agreement that could cause potential conflict of interest.

Players may sign free agent deals with their own teams at any time. That makes sense.

But in a curious move, players may also negotiate with other teams during this time; however, they cannot sign until Nov. 15. Thus, a player can agree in principle to a deal with another team while still playing for her original team during the season. That could open up a big can of worms.

 

Red Stars snap skid

On the pitch, the Red Stars snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday night with an impressive 4-0 win at Racing Louisville.

Mallory Pugh and Nagasato each scored two goals.

Pugh scored in the third minute – it was her seventh goal of the year and first since June 18 against Kansas City.

Chicago (7-5-5) visits OL Reign Sept. 9 and finally comes home at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview Sept. 14 for a game against Kansas City.

DiBernardo made her 150th appearance in an NWSL game – all with the Red Stars. She is the fifth player in league history to play 150 or more games with a single team.

 

Prime time players

The Red Stars have been to the last two NWSC championship games in 2019 and 2021 and if they can get there again this season, there will be a bonus. The Oct. 29 game will be shown in prime time.

The league announced that the title game will air on the CBS Television Network and stream on Paramount+ at 7 p.m. at Audi Field in Washington.

The game was moved from its originally scheduled time at 10 a.m. following a recent agreement between CBS and the league.

“As we continue to advance the women’s sports landscape in the U.S. and around the world, this is a particularly significant moment for the league and an opportunity our players wholly deserve,” NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman said in a statement. “We look forward to celebrating the end of a fantastic 10th anniversary season in person and on the air with what will surely be an exciting final.”

While the Red Stars have struggled of late, last year they proved that they could survive the ups and downs of the regular season and still shine in the playoffs. They earned the fourth seed and still managed to make it to the final match, dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to third-seeded Washington.

The Red Stars also lost 4-0 to North Carolina in 2019 title game. There was no 2020 title game due to the pandemic.

 

Fire II heating up

The Chicago Fire II beat Toronto FC II 2-1 Aug. 25 at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview in an MLS NEXT Pro contest.

Missael Rodriguez scored for the fourth time in five matches and Richard Fleming III scored his second goal of the season.

It’s the first time that the Fire (6-10-5, 25 points) won back-to-back matches in regulation.

The Fire visits Columbus (14-3-4, 47 points) Saturday.

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