In a player-for-player trade with Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC acquired Japanese international midfielder Nahomi “Naho” Kawasumi in exchange for Shea Groom. The trade was first reported by NCAA podcast hosts Chris Henderson and Jon Lipsitz last Wednesday, the day before the 2019 NWSL Draft.
While Kawasumi brings veteran experience to a relatively young and experienced Sky Blue attack, rumors of an impending retirement continue to overshadow the trade. However, Kawasumi’s statements in Sky Blue’s official trade announcement suggest otherwise.
“I will play for Sky Blue FC this season,” Kawasumi said per the team’s press release. “I am looking forward to playing with my new teammates. I will do my best for Sky Blue and will cooperate with the team for the championship and I’m very happy for you to call me ‘Naho’ when you cheer for me.”
Kawasumi joined the National Women’s Soccer League in 2014 when she was loaned to Seattle from INAC Kobe Leonessa. What followed was her most impressive NWSL season in which she recorded nine goals and five assists in 20 appearances for the Reign. She then returned home to Japan before returning to the Reign midway through the 2016 season. In all, Kawasumi scored 18 goals in 70 appearances for the Reign. Her nine assists in 2017 is a single-season NWSL record.
The midfielder also has extensive international experience, debuting with Japan in 2008. She helped the nation to its first ever World Cup win in 2011 and its first Olympic silver medal for women’s soccer in 2012. She was also on Japan’s 2015 World Cup squad that finished second behind the USWNT.
“Naho has had over a decade of experience with the Japanese national team and her international experience alone is a huge asset for us,” Sky Blue Head Coach Denise Reddy said. “In addition, she has had proven success in this league, success that we believe will transfer here to Sky Blue.”
Reign owner Bill Predmore also had high praise for Naho, saying in Seattle’s team statement, “Days like this are difficult—it is hard to imagine a Reign FC squad without Naho. Her leadership, professionalism, tireless work ethic, intelligence and extraordinary talent have ensured that she will be forever recognized as one of the all-time greats to have played for our club. Naho has always played with a joy that is infectious and a quiet intensity deeply respected by all her teammates. She will be missed.”
With the trade, Shea Groom departs Sky Blue after only one season. She is reunited with Vlatko Andonovski, her first professional coach. Andonovski drafted Groom to FC Kansas City with the 12th-overall pick in the 2015 NWSL College Draft. There Groom played for three seasons before being traded to Sky Blue by the Utah Royals FC following FCKC’s demise. The forward made 17 starts in 21 matches played, tallying two goals and three assists in 1535 minutes logged.
Sources close to Sky Blue informed Once a Metro that Andonovski repeatedly attempted to negotiate a trade for Groom last season, to no avail. The Reign coach clearly thinks highly of the attacker, a sentiment echoed in his statements regarding the acquisition of Groom on Monday.
“I’m thrilled to be working with Shea again,” Andonovski said in Seattle’s official statement. “She’s a very talented player. She was an impactful player for me in Kansas City, and I know she’ll fit in well in Seattle.”
Groom’s departure comes just two days after Sky Blue FC defender Christina Gibbons announced her retirement and just one day after No. 2 overall draft pick Hailie Mace, who it was reported informed Sky Blue she had no intention of reporting to the club, was linked to Melbourne City Women of the Australian W-League, where she will reportedly finish out the 2018/2019 campaign before signing with a European club still to be determined.
Groom is now the sixth member of Sky Blue FC’s 2018 squad who is not returning to the club for the 2019 season.