As it was announced in an earlier post, Kim Little is moving across the pond to join the Seattle Reign FC of the NWSL in 2014. This is not a loan. This is a long term contract. A one year contract starting in 2014, with a club option for 2015.
There had been some whispers on this trade for about the last two weeks, if not longer, and the move was made official today. The Reign traded American midfielder Christine Narin to the Washington Spirit for Little's rights. I know what you're thinking, how in the world did Washington have any "rights" whatsoever to our dear Kim Little? Well, since the NWSL is an American league, the rules can be a little wacky.
Essentially, the Spirit had claimed rights to Little as a "discovery player." Here's the exact wording on discovery player from the NWSL's roster rules.
A Discovery Player is considered a player who was not drafted in the College or Supplemental Draft, or a player who was "discovered" either domestically or internationally, who is not presently on an NWSL roster and whose rights are not owned by an NWSL team. Teams can also list a player who is currently on a roster for a European or other foreign club, knowing that they would likely not have access to the player until the completion of that foreign club’s league season.
It does seem a bit ludicrous to me that arguably one of the best midfielders in the women's soccer world can be "discovered"; but, if we just ignore that word entirely, the whole trade does make sense. Little was on the roster for a European club, and Washington couldn't have Little until the Arsenal Ladies were done with their domestic season, so they grabbed up her rights. I won't get into how throwing rights around all willy-nilly is insanity because this article is about Kim Little, but you catch my drift.
Now Washington probably knew there was pretty much no chance of having the Scottish international join them overseas, and thus decided her rights could be traded away. The perfect trade partner was, of course, the Seattle Reign. Ex-Arsenal Ladies manager Laura Harvey has been wheelin' and dealin' this offseason, and she clearly wanted to reunite with the 2012 Olympian.
In the end, the Spirit get a home town player, and a pretty solid midfielder at that, in Christine Narin and the Reign got one of the most dynamic players in the world. Everybody goes home happy. Well, everyone except Arsenal.
It's going to be incredibly hard for this team to fight to reclaim the FA WSL crown next season without the league's one time leading goal scorer and 2012-2013 PFA Women's Player of the Year on their roster. It's also possible, if we want to believe the rumors, that Little is just the first in a string of players leaving the club.
The loss of Little no doubt raises some question marks in the starting XI, and boy does that new contract for Jordan Nobbs mean that much more. Emma Mitchell was a good addition to the team this season, and I'd imagine she will grab more minutes in that midfielder position. Not that Mitchell isn't a great player, but let's be honest with ourselves, its very hard to fill the shoes of Kim Little. It's been a while since Arsenal made any big offseason signings (hmm, where have we heard that before), but bringing in someone of a higher caliber is a necessity before next season.
It does seem that all good things must come to an end. So let's remember the fun times with the "little cannon". A member of the club for six years, since the tender age of 17, Little has brought Arsenal countless goals, trophies, and fun times. And there are still more to come.
I would imagine that as the NWSL 2014 season doesn't start until April, Little would continue to feature for Arsenal as they continue their pursuit of a second UWCL title. Also, let's not forget that many members of Arsenal that have left before Little often found their way back to the Gunners.
So good luck with your endeavors in Seattle, Kim, and remember, once a Gunner, always a Gunner.