Utah Royals acquire U.S. forward Christen Press in three-team trade

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2017, file photo, United States forward Christen Press (23) heads the ball against Canada during the first half of an international friendly women's soccer match, in San Jose, Calif. Sky Blue acquired Carli Lloyd in a draft-day trade on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, that also sent Christen Press to the Dash and Australian Sam Kerr to the Chicago Red Stars. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Utah Royals FC owner Dell Loy Hansen knelt on one knee and took the hand of United States women’s national team veteran Christen Press on the sideline at Rio Tinto Stadium.

He wasn’t proposing marriage, but he did use the USWNT’s international friendly against China at his team’s home stadium on June 7 to make an impression. Less than two weeks later, the Utah Royals announced that they had acquired Press’ NWSL rights in a three-team trade.

“It’s exciting,” Royals managing director Stephanie Lee told The Tribune. “I think the biggest impact is just for the league in general having Christen Press back, and any player of her caliber on the field for the league is going to bring attention and bring notice, and that’s going to be good for all.”

The trade, which the clubs announced Monday, began with the Chicago Red Stars sending forward Sofia Huerta and defender Taylor Comeau to the Houston Dash for the rights to Press and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NWSL college draft. Then Chicago traded Press’ rights and defender Samantha Johnson to Utah for defender Brooke Elby and five draft picks: two first-round 2019 draft picks (including the No.1 overall pick, which Utah received when it joined the league), conditional first- and second-round 2020 draft picks and a conditional first-round 2021 pick.

The Royals had been interested in Press, who has scored 44 international goals in 100 USWNT appearance, since January, Lee told The Tribune. However, the club began negotiating terms in earnest a little over a week ago.

Press remains under contract with Swedish club Goteborg FC — according to FourFourTwo her deal is set to expire July 8 — but Lee told The Tribune that Press and the Royals are working with Goteborg to terminate Press’ contract early. A Royals team release said Press could be available as early as June 27, when the Royals take on the Seattle Reign.

Press caused a stir around the league this offseason when she refused to join Houston after a trade from Chicago. The three-team negotiation moved Carli Lloyd to Sky Blue (as she requested), Sam Kerr to Chicago and Press to the Dash. After visiting Houston and touring the club’s facilities, Press instead signed a three-month deal with Goteborg, where she played in 2012 after the WPS folded. Because of the NWSL’s contract structure, Houston held only her NWSL rights and she was free to go wherever she wished outside the league.

The same goes for Press’ current relationship with Utah. However, Lee said that after several conversations with Press and her agents, the Royals are not concerned that Press will decide to stay overseas, assuming all her transfer paperwork goes through.