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Australian star Caitlin Foord leaves NWSL to sign with Arsenal FC

The midfielder will not play for the Orlando Pride, which acquired her rights in a trade earlier this month.

Caitlin Foord poses with her new jersey. Photo courtesy of Arsenal FC.

After months of hints to a move to Europe, rising Australian star Caitlin Foord officially signed with Arsenal FC on Friday.

The club announced the news on social media, with a post saying, “It’s official! Caitlin Foord is a Gunner.”

Foord’s announcement means that she will not suit up for the Orlando Pride this season after the club acquired her rights in a trade with the Portland Thorns. Earlier this month, the Pride traded the No. 1 overall draft pick — which the Thorns used to select 19-year-old Sophia Smith — for Foord, defender Emily Sonnett and a pair of lower draft picks.

When the Pride completed the trade, the club’s front office was open about the uncertainty of her situation in the NWSL. But Pride general manager Erik Ustruck hoped he could sell her on the idea of staying in the league.

“I’ve tried to convince her that this is the highest level, here in the U.S.,” Ustruck told the Athletic’s Meg Linehan. “She’s attracted to the Champions League play, so it was important for her to potentially explore that opportunity. If something falls through, she knows that we retain her rights, and she’s very open to playing here, which is exciting, too. She said, ‘If I do come back to the NWSL, if I chose to stay in the NWSL, I want to play for Orlando.’ Being part of that conversation, being an option for her is important to us.”

Foord represents the future for the Australian national team. She played in the 2011 FIFA World Cup at the age of 16 and has since become a pillar in the midfield for the Matildas, notching 17 goals over 77 caps. She played in Portland for two seasons, netting three goals and adding two assists in 2019 despite departing in the midst of the season for the World Cup in France.

Her departure could mark a turning point, as non-American international stars continue to leave the NWSL to pursue options in Europe.

The announcement marks the third major move by an Australian out of the American league to the English FA WSL. Former Chicago Red Stars forward Sam Kerr made waves when she announced her move to Chelsea in November, while the Thorns’ Hayley Raso left for Everton earlier this week.

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