Ahead of their inaugural season last year, Racing Louisville secured the signing of one of England’s brightest young talents, Ebony Salmon. Identifying Salmon and being able to lure her to the NWSL with an expansion team was an impressive show of intent. Salmon led the team in goals and contributed to a third of their overall goal output throughout the year. After having played only 75 minutes this season despite being healthy, the club traded her to Houston.
In the minds of many, and in real-time, Louisville made a mess of their expansion draft. The coach that made the decisions, Christy Holly, was fired for cause, and only two of the players selected are still with the team a year later. But now, one of the few non-draft moves they made — signing Salmon — has been undone.
On the surface that’s cause enough for concern. However, digging deeper, there might also be cause for alarm with new head coach Björkegren. In an introductory interview with Theo Lloyd-Hughes of The Strike Texas, Salmon stated “Kim [Björkegren] didn’t speak to me once about any of it. The only time I spoke to him was when I initiated a conversation saying that I want to go elsewhere because I’m not getting the minutes here and I don’t feel like I’m going to get the minutes.”
She continued, “As soon as James [O’Connor, team president] mentioned the trade to me, there was no communication between me and Kim after that.”
Given last year in the NWSL, in which over half the teams had a coach fired, dismissed or sent on leave for varieties of misconduct, it’s not a good look that Björkegren seemingly froze out a player and refused to speak with her. Later in the piece, Salmon mentions trying to tough it out and prove herself, but the questions she asked to help her get to that point went unanswered and it seemed the coach’s opinion wouldn’t budge.
New coaches have their own styles and preferences that often lead to friction with current players, with some potentially falling out of favor. But a basic level of decency is something all players deserve. Not speaking to a player while also refusing to offer clear direction on how to alter their game to accrue more minutes is not only poor coaching, but poor human-ing as well.
Fit with Houston
The good news in all of this is that Houston Dash got themselves a potential superstar. Salmon has already proven she can score in this league, and her arrival gives their attack yet another hard-to-stop weapon. With Rachel Daly away with England for the EUROS, and Nichelle Prince and Maria Sánchez with their national teams (Mexico, Canada) for the CONCACAF W Championship, Salmon will likely see time straight away.
There will be some sorting out to do when the trio return, but if Houston can find a cohesive way to fit them all in attack they’ll be one of the most potent and fun attacking sides in the league.