From the moment Christy Holly joined Racing Louisville FC as the club’s head coach in August, he has used one word to describe the type of atmosphere he wants for his club: family. Now with rights acquired to 17 players, Holly’s not changing course.
Racing expanded its roster by 14 in Thursday night’s NWSL expansion draft, in which the club selected defender Addisyn Merrick at No. 1 and finished with a bang, closing by picking U.S Women’s National Team stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press.
Meticulous in his decision-making process, Holly concluded months of conversations with coaches, teammates, agents and the players themselves confident in the group he has assembled.
“This is a family approach.” Holly told reporters after the draft. “We want to remain true to that.”
Here’s more takeaways from Holly’s meeting with the media...
Reaching the stars
Racing surprised the women’s soccer world when it acquired the playing rights to Heath and Press, who are both currently signed and playing with Manchester United Women for the 2020-2021 FA Women’s Super League season.
Only knowing the two were available for a week with the release of the league’s protected/unprotected list on Nov. 5, Holly moved quickly when deciding to add the two-time World Cup winners to his prospective roster.
“We were shocked that they were available,” Holly said. “With how valuable and how much experience and success they’ve had in their respective careers is something that we thought would be a tremendous addition.
“We feel like there’s an alignment in terms of their world class abilities and world class ambitions.”
While it’s still unknown if or when the two will be able to join Louisville for the 2021 season, Holly said he’ll emphasize clear communication with their camps as they remain overseas. The FA WSL season runs through early May, and next year the Olympics are scheduled to be staged.
Thursday’s No. 4 and No. 11 picks -- Cece Kizer and Erin Simon -- are plenty familiar with Holly. Having worked with Kizer at U.S. Soccer and Simon during his time at Sky Blue FC, Holly knew both of them we’re players he could trust when establishing his team.
“I had a little bit of an insight in terms of what it is I feel that they can offer the club both as players and as people,” Holly said. “That gave me a great deal of confidence in terms of the decision making.”
Holly also had the added benefit of watching Kizer and Simon win the NWSL’s Challenge Cup with the Houston Dash. Both Kizer and Simon played a large part in the Dash’s title, with Kizer bagging a goal in the final and Simon making five appearances totaling 239 minutes.
Where we go next
With the expansion draft in the rearview, the club can now turn its attention to a yet-to-be-scheduled college draft in early 2021.
Racing holds the No. 1 and No. 5 picks, with Holly saying he’s already in conversations with clubs in the states and abroad to find the players that fit Racing on and off the field.
“As we sit down and look at the layout of the team both from a tactical, but also a personality standpoint, we feel like there’s still some work to do,” the coach said. “But it’s up to us to strike a balance.
“There’s a long road ahead of us. We feel that we’ve laid a really good foundation.”
A group bought in
In the days leading up to the expansion draft, Holly detailed the “pitch” he delivered to prospective players on Racing Louisville FC. That meant explaining ambition he has for the club, the support from the front office as well as the club’s new facilities, both a training center under construction and recently opened Lynn Family Stadium.
While building out his inaugural roster, Holly is aiming to recruit players who are on board with his mission of making Racing a world-class club. In doing so, he took a personal approach.
“For some players I sat on the phone for two hours because I wanted to hear their input,” Holly said. “I wanted to hear their opinion. And I wanted to make sure they understand this is just not about Racing Louisville. This is about them, too.
“What we’re doing here is not just about us. It’s a collective foundation of the club and the city. It’s genuine.”