The Red Stars announced on Monday they would have full roster protection in the upcoming expansion draft, but it came at a steep price.
In a deal with Racing Louisville FC, Chicago traded forward Savannah McCaskill and midfielder Yuki Nagasato along with the fifth overall selection in the 2021 NWSL Draft and an international slot for 2021 and 2022 to keep the rest of their roster intact.
“Trades are never easy,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “We certainly did not want to lose Savannah or Yuki. They’ve both been big parts of what we’ve done in the last year and a half.”
The perception Dames said is that Chicago protected its five allocated players: Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, Tierna Davidson, Morgan Gautrat and Casey Short. The reality is they protected an entire core that they believe gives them the best shot at returning to the NWSL Championship.
Dames said this won’t be the last move the Red Stars make before returning to action next year.
Expansion draft immunity wasn’t something Dames or owner Arnim Whisler knew was possible. But Dames said, “you don’t know until you ask.” There was mutual interest from the Red Stars and Racing Louisville to have trade conversations and it was important to Chicago to get ahead of those talks.
Dames said the Red Stars would have lost one of their five allocated players. By securing this deal before the Nov. 12 expansion draft, it gives the Red Stars stability and Racing Louisville time to strategize.
“The ability to actually be above board and get roster protection as a thing that’s tradable is new,” Whisler said. “The players are all thinking about will they be on the protected side or unprotected side. Anything we can do to give certainty to the rest of our players that things are stable now and we control our destiny is a really good thing.”
Racing Louisville will become the Red Stars regional rival and Dames said it will be unfortunate to have to play Nagasato and McCaskill in that setting. As far as the organization goes, Dames said he’s grateful they are headed to a team that values them and has plans to make them cornerstones of the organization.
The Red Stars had the league and Racing Louisville FC hold off on announcing the trade until they had an opportunity to discuss it with the team and the players involved.
Nagasato is currently playing overseas for men’s amateur team Hayabusa Eleven in Japan. Once Whisler and Dames were able to reach Nagasato, they made the announcement.
“Those are always hard discussions,” Whisler said. “We care deeply about everyone on our team.”
McCaskill, who was acquired in a trade in 2019, made 28 appearances for Chicago in the last two seasons. Nagasato was acquired in 2017 after having previously won a FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League and made 52 appearances in her three seasons with the team.
Beyond their contributions on the field, McCaskill and Nagasato left a lasting mark on the organization.
Nagasato, specifically, was not only a fan favorite but one of the hardest-working players on the roster. Her character, along with her work ethic, is something Chicago will deeply miss.
“I can honestly tell you since Yuki has been here, she was literally the first player on the field every day and the last player off the field,” Dames said.