In a relatively shocking move this morning, the North Carolina Courage announced a triple trade, sending striker Kristen Hamilton, backup goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland, and midfielder Hailie Mace to Kansas City in exchange for veteran forward Amy Rodriguez, and $60,000 of allocation money.
Hamilton started her NWSL career in 2014 with the Courage’s predecessor, the Western New York Flash. She played in 25 matches and led the team to their first-ever NWSL championship title in 2016. In 2017, she followed the transition of the Flash to the NC Courage, appearing in a total of 67 matches, scoring fifteen goals along the way.
Hamilton has played in 10 games in 2021 with the Courage, starting 5 of those matches. She has had a single goal so far in the 2021 regular-season campaign, and a pair during the 2021 Challenge Cup.
She’s competed with a ton of talented offensive-minded forwards including current veterans Jess McDonald and Lynn Williams. As saddened as Courage players, staff, and fans are at her loss, she’s likely to make an immediate impact at KC, with increased and consistent playing minutes.
The trade is even more heart-wrenching for Hamilton who leaves her significant other, Abby Ercg behind in NC. Courage captain Erceg, currently on Olympic duty will return from Tokyo to likely a new roommate.
On Twitter, Erceg retweeted the Courage’s farewell/thank you video, with the comment, “Love you guys forever. This one strikes deep into the heart.”
Love you guys forever. This one strikes deep into the heart 💔 https://t.co/1xZpg8JZcN
— Abby Erceg (@abbyerceg) July 22, 2021
Rowland, like Hamilton, transitioned from the Western New York Flash, and like Hamilton, has always had to battle for consistent minutes. Throughout her career with the Courage, Rowland appeared in 30 matches.
Along the way, Rowland has fluctuated from starter to backup during tenures with Canadian goalkeepers Sabrina D’Angelo, Stephanie Labbé, and current starter, Casey Murphy. Rowland joins current KC keepers, Abby Smith and Nicole Barnhart who have split GK duties almost 50/50 so far in 2021. It’s difficult to speculate what her playing time will look like there.
The Raleigh, NC area also lose Rowland as a coach. Rowland had worked with the NCFC Youth program’s goalkeepers for the past few seasons.
Rowland and Hamilton both have been a part of the multiple NC Courage championship seasons, winning two NWSL Championship titles, three NWSL Shields, and a Women’s ICC Championship title.
Paul Riley on Hamilton and Rowland
“Hammer and Kate have been a huge part of three NWSL Championships and three Shields,” Courage head coach Paul Riley said.
“They are the epitome of what class, culture, and selflessness brings to a team. Yes, they have won a lot, but I will remember the amazing contribution they made to my life. The privilege of coaching players of this ability and commitment is beyond anything you can imagine.
Riley said their development and maturity have been awesome to watch.
“Fabulous people and players that will continue to hone their skills at the highest level. Massive thanks for both for what they have given our club, our team, our city, and our supporters. We wish them continued success and I look forward to coaching them again someplace, sometime.”
In the trade-related press release from this morning, Riley said Mace has a real ability to make an impact in the NWSL.
“I’m convinced she will do it,” Riley said.
“Her strength, power, and soccer intelligence puts her in good stead to be a huge contributor in Kansas City. We want to thank Macer for the effort, time, and commitment to the Club and wish her tremendous success in her new endeavor.”
Rodriguez has played for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) since 2005, boasting 132 caps and 30 goals. She won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, followed by a CONCACAF Women’s Championship in 2015, and a World Cup title in 2015.
Riley had previous coached Rodriguez (nick named “A-Rod”) during their time with the Women’s Professional Soccer’s Philadelphia Independence.
Combined with her experience, leadership, and relentless work habits, she will add to our culture and team standards.
“A-Rod is one of the top forwards I’ve coached in my 30-year coaching career,” Riley said.
“She is masterful and clever in her movements and very tough to contain — super smart, two very good feet and an appetite for goals. We feel she will be a hugely valuable piece over the next few years. Her sincerity, mentality, and work ethic make her a lethal NWSL weapon. Combined with her experience, leadership, and relentless work habits, she will add to our culture and team standards. The fans will love her and they will get to know a player whose hunger and fire to perform and win is more than it’s ever been.”
While it’s not known how long the deal was in the works, the timing is slightly strange, as the Courage have absences with the Olympics just starting up. The Courage are missing USWNT players Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams, along with Brazillian midfielder Debinha, and New Zealand’s Erceg.
Brazil won their opening stage match, which the United States and New Zealand both lost their Olympic openers.
In what must be dubbed a long-term (or season-long) plan, as these five players return from Olympic duty, Mace and Hamilton would likely receive fewer playing minutes, though the acquisition of Rodriguez puts her in competition, like Hamilton for minutes with other forwards including McDonald, Lynn Williams, and Brittany Ratcliffe.
The timing also means that the trio of Courage players could be playing against their former team as early as tomorrow. The Courage and Kansas City play each other for the first time tomorrow, Friday, July 23 at 8:00 PM ET at Legends Field in Kansas City, Kansas. Mace was already seen training with KC in one of their Instagram stories earlier today.
The Courage are on the road tomorrow night, playing Kansas City, and possibly the trio of traded Courage players on Friday, July 23 at 8 p.m. ET. The match will stream live on Twitch. North Carolina then returns home to face the Orlando Pride in their third meeting of the regular season on Saturday, July 31 at 7 p.m. ET.
Trades are always a bit shocking, and oftentimes heartbreaking. We here at Courage Country were lucky enough to interview all three of these players and appreciate them as players and people. They’ll be missed, but will always be part of #CourageCountry.