Red Stars trade Julie Ertz, Sarah Gorden to Angel City FC for expansion draft protection

Angel City FC acquired Julie Ertz and Sarah Gorden from the Chicago Red Stars on Thursday ahead of the trade deadline and next week's NWSL expansion draft.

The Red Stars, who said in their release they "reluctantly agreed to trade two, long-time stalwarts of the club," in turn received expansion draft protection from Angel City FC (ACFC).

“Julie Ertz and Sarah Gorden are two players that are so important for the defensive foundation we are building on the Angel City roster,” ACFC Sporting Director Eni Aluko said in a statement. “We know successful football teams need to have competitive defenses and we are delighted with the addition of two competitive defenders with many years of NWSL experience.”

It was part of a flurry of moves by Chicago, which lost the NWSL championship match to the Washington Spirit last month. The Red Stars also brokered a trade with the San Diego Wave in return for draft protection and they agreed to a trade with OL Reign.

Ertz, Gorden head to L.A.

Julie Ertz will play for a new NWSL team for the first time in her career. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/ISI Photos/Getty Images)Julie Ertz will play for a new NWSL team for the first time in her career. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Julie Ertz will play for a new NWSL team for the first time in her career. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Ertz, 29, has long been the face of the Red Stars as she spent her entire NWSL career there. The defender joined the club in 2014 and made 95 appearances, 93 of which she started, with six goals and eight assists.

She played in only one match in 2021 due to U.S. national team commitments and injury. The season started with a right MCL sprain and she missed the playoffs due to a right thigh injury.

The trade will unite Ertz with USWNT teammate Christen Press, who became Angel City FC's first signing in August. The duo were with the national team this summer during its bronze medal run at the Tokyo Olympics.

Gorden is a Chicago native and fan favorite who asked for a trade to L.A. for personal reasons, the Red Stars said in the release. The 29-year-old defender joined the Red Stars in 2016 and steadily moved into a starting role. She started every game in the 2019 and 2021 regular seasons.

Wave build out roster with Red Stars players

The Red Stars traded Katie Johnson and Makenzy Doniak to the San Diego Wave, "per their wishes," the team said. In return, Chicago will also receive expansion draft protection from the Wave, plus allocation money.

The duo wanted to return home to Southern California. Johnson, a member of the Mexican national team, was born near Los Angeles and Doniak is from Chino Hills. The Wave will also receive 2021 draft pick Kelsey Turnbow.

San Diego announced its name last month and acquired the rights to USWNT defender Abby Dahlkemper from the North Carolina Courage. It has steadily been building its roster in recent days. It acquired the rights to defender Tegan McGrady, who won the 2021 title with the Spirit, and forward Jodie Taylor, formerly of the Orlando Pride.

How Chicago benefits from moves

By trading specific players directly to Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC, the Red Stars have insured their roster will stay as-is through the expansion draft on Dec. 16 in Los Angeles.

“While it is always difficult to say goodbye to players who have given their all to the club, we wanted to accommodate personal requests for relocations, while also removing the stress of the upcoming expansion draft for the remainder of our roster," the club said in a statement. "After such a long season we wanted to provide additional time for players to rest emotionally without the worry of being unprotected. This also allows us to shift focus to building out the roster to make another championship run. The club wishes these players well with their new teams and will continue to cheer for them from afar.”

Clubs must submit their list of protected and unprotected players that the NWSL front office will then distribute to all clubs on Friday, Dec. 10. Clubs can protect a total of nine players that includes one U.S. allocated player among other stipulations.

Angel City FC and San Diego can select one player from each team for a total of nine players each, only one of which can be a U.S. allocated player. The NWSL draft will follow on Dec. 18.

The Red Stars organization will focus on hiring a new head coach in the offseason after Rory Dames resigned two days after the championship loss. Dames, who was with Chicago for 11 years, is accused of emotionally abusing Red Stars players in yet another serious coaching issue within the league. The report came out hours after his late-night resignation was released. Rade Tanaskovic, the club's goalkeeper coach, is listed as the acting head coach on the Red Stars website.