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Christen Press signs in Sweden, skips NWSL after Houston Dash standoff

United States forward Christen Press (23) keeps the ball away from France midfielder Gaetane Thiney (12) during the second half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match, Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Harrison, N.J. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

The sixth season of the National Women’s League will continue without Christen Press. After a standoff with the Houston Dash that saw her refusing to report to preseason camp, Press has agreed to play in Sweden.

Press has signed a short-term deal with Goteborg to put an end, for now, to a weeks-long dispute with the Houston Dash over her league rights. Press heads overseas for a three-month spell that will give her options when the summer transfer window opens in France, England and the rest of Europe.

The Dash had received trade offers from the three NWSL clubs she was interested in – the Utah Royals, Seattle Reign and Portland Thorns – but none offered an allocated U.S. national team player and the Dash declined them all. Offers over the last couple weeks from Utah and Seattle included draft picks and players, but the Dash wanted a national team star in return, which they were not offered, according to sources.

Press and Goteborg worked out the deal last week as the Dash continued to decline trade offers. Goteborg, a club Press played for in 2012, confirmed the move Monday and Press chimed in shortly after:

Press had been stuck in limbo since she was first traded to the Dash in January. National team players had been invited by U.S. Soccer and the league to list their trade preferences and most of them got exactly what they wanted. Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn and Kelley O’Hara all got moves they wanted, for instance, and a few players who wanted moves had their club folded or relocated anyway.

But Press was the odd one out, being traded to Houston even though she sought a move to the west coast. After the trade was executed, she immediately made it clear she did not intend to play in Houston and refused to report. Sources say that Press wanted to play in the NWSL this season, but she would not play in Houston, a club that now has just one U.S. national team player, reserve goalkeeper Jane Campbell.

The question is what happens to her NWSL rights after her stint in Europe. The Dash still hold onto them and, according to sources, allocated player rights do not expire. If Press seeks a return to the NWSL, Houston will need to be willing to trade her.

For now, the move to Sweden puts Press’ career back on track. U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis left Press off the roster for an upcoming pair of friendlies, citing Press not having a club at the moment:

The three-month deal with Goteborg will carry Press to the Tournament of Nations, an annual U.S. women’s national team tournament this summer. If Houston won’t trade her by then, she can stay in Sweden or make a move elsewhere in Europe. That will keep her in contention for Ellis’ World Cup qualifying rosters in the fall. But all of that still needs to be figured out.

The important thing for now, however, is that Press has a club, even though it’s not in the NWSL.

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