Christen Press has played professional soccer for eight clubs in three countries on two continents. But she’s never played a game at home.
That will change next spring when Press makes her debut for Angel City FC, Southern California’s fledgling NWSL franchise, which made the Los Angeles native and two-time World Cup champion the first signing in team history.
“The dream of being a pro player in L.A. was always elusive for me,” Press said. “Every team that I’ve played for has always been like, ‘You know, when L.A. gets a team, we promise we’ll send you there.’ And it always felt everyone’s been able to say that because no one knew when it was happening.”
Southern California has been without a top-tier women’s team since the L.A. Sol folded after one season in 2010.
“For it to really be happening, to be able to bring professional soccer back to Los Angeles and to be a part of that team, is nothing but a dream come true,” she said. “A dream that didn’t even feel possible for the majority of my career.”
Although Angel City declined to discuss the details of Press’ contract, sources with knowledge of the deal confirmed it is for two seasons with a third-year option which, if exercised, will bring the value of the deal to approximately $550,000, making Press one of the highest-paid players in league history.
Although Press remains under contract with U.S. Soccer, her club salary will be paid by Angel City.
“Whether it’s in three years, six years or nine years I would love to finish my career in front of my friends and family and, obviously, the city of Los Angeles,” she said.
“My family and friends, they have followed me all over the world,” added Press, who hasn’t lived in Southern California for 14 years. “So to be able to come and play in front of them week in and week out … just to see them in the stands and know that I’ve come home, for me full circle.”
Press, who will be 33 when Angel City plays its first game next year, was a free agent after leaving Manchester United of the Women’s Super League last spring. She has also played in Sweden and with two clubs in the NWSL. But she’s had her greatest success with the national team, appearing in every game in four of the last six years, tying for the team lead in goals in 2020 and 2017 and leading in assists in 2019. Her 64 career goals in 155 international caps in nine years ranks among the top 10 in U.S. Soccer history.
Eniola Aluko, Angel City’s sporting director, who saw Press in the WSL last season, said she wanted her for her versatility as much as her goal-scoring prowess. Although Press has scored or set up 41 goals in her last 43 games with the U.S., she has become more of a playmaker in recent years. She can also play anywhere along the front line and has worked hard to improve her defense, ticking off most of the boxes Angel City was interested in.
“As part of building a team that is exciting and unpredictable and difficult to beat, you have to look at what players can fit into that,” Aluko said. “That is a dream for a coach because it means that a coach can adapt their tactics depending on the opposition.
“So bringing in players who are very intelligent, who are very strong in multiple positions, like Christen gives you an idea of what kind of team we’re trying to build.”
Press’ local roots are also an important attribute for a fledgling team trying to establish a foothold in a crowded sports landscape. She was born in Los Angeles and played as a child on teams coached by her father, Cody, a former football player at Dartmouth. She went on to win two CIF titles at the Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, where she also lettered in track and tennis, before winning the Hermann Trophy at Stanford, where she broke multiple school records.
Press, who is fluent in Spanish, was also an academic All-American despite a double major in communications and psychology.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I didn’t consider all of those factors,” Aluko said. “Signing somebody like Christen, who is from L.A., understands the community, understands all of the things that we’re trying to achieve with Angel City in terms of equality and pay equity…that’s what makes it such an incredible signing.
“It’s a multi-dimensional signing.”
Freya Coombe, the NJ/NY Gotham FC manager who will be Angel City’s first coach, said Press fits into the attacking, ball-possession style of play she prefers.
“She’s an exciting player,” Coombe said. “The fans are going to love to watch her as well. She’s got so much to give in terms of her ability to attack and she’s very hard to defend against.
“There’s going to be more to come from here, which is going to be really exciting for the club.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports