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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Brown

A preseason look at Racing Louisville FC

Who are they?

Racing Louisville FC is set to begin their second-ever season in the NWSL this March. The club began as an expansion team in 2021 and quickly gained fans, ranking second in attendance in just their first year. The team plays in Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Ky, which hosted the 2021 NWSL Final between champion Washington Spirit and the Chicago Red Stars.

Racing Louisville FC's crest, designed by Matthew Wolff. (Photo//@wolffmatt on Twitter)

Racing Louisville’s colors are lavender and dark violet, which are represented in the crest as four fleurs-de-lis, symbolizing the French heritage of Louisville. The club’s name is based on Louisville’s prominent horse racing venues and overall status as a major city for the equestrian sport.

Louisville announced the firing of its first head coach, Christy Holly, in August of 2021. The club didn’t specify reasons for the termination of Holly’s contract and placed Mario Sanchez as interim head coach for the rest of the 2021 season. Holly was just one of four NWSL coaches that were fired last year.

Head Coach Kim Björkegren leads the team into their second season. The NWSL shared news of the Swedish native’s hiring in December 2021, and he arrives following an undefeated season coaching the Cyprus’ Apollon Ladies FC of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Björkegren has coached professional soccer for over 15 years in a multitude of leagues, and brings heavy international experience to Louisville. He has yet to coach a game for Louisville, as he was hired in the offseason, but told the Louisville Courier Journal “I’m extremely motivated, and I can’t wait to meet all the players and start with our work.”

Other coaching staff include Assistant Coaches Gary Curneen and Kiley Polk, as well as Goalkeeper Coach Sergio Gonzalez. The club demonstrated great potential last year, backed by enthusiastic fans that averaged 6,585 fans per match. This momentum will likely continue into March, when Racing plays its first match in the Challenge Cup against the Kansas City Current.

Meet the players

Racing Louisville has 28 players on its current roster. Five members of the team were picks in the NWSL college draft, and the team is on the younger side both as an organization and as players. However, there are a few valuable veterans that will be key to guiding them this season.

There are four goalkeepers on Racing’s squad this season. Katie Lund earned the starting spot toward the end of last season. She made her mark during the Women’s Cup, where she saved four penalty kicks against FC Bayern Munich. Hillary Beal, Jordyn Bloomer and Gabby Kouzelos will all present her with the challenge of maintaining her starting position this season.

Defender Emily Fox is a solid returner that demonstrated her strong attacking abilities out of the back last season. She tallied the most playing time in the NWSL compared to other rookies, clocking 1,856 minutes total. Fox also has eight caps with the USWNT.

Rookie midfielder Jaelin Howell is a player to keep an eye on this season. A standout at

Crystal Dunn presents Jaelin Howell and Dante Polvara with the 2021 MAC Hermann Triophy Award, Jan. 7, 2022.

Florida State, Howell ended her college soccer career boasting two National Titles and two MAC Hermann Trophy Awards. She was selected second in the 2022 NWSL draft and is on the USWNT’s roster for the SheBelieves Cup, replacing Lindsey Horan who is out with a knee injury.

In terms of veterans, Louisville drafted Jessica McDonald from the North Carolina Courage in December 2021 in exchange for the No. 6 draft pick and $25,000 of allocation money. McDonald was traded after a six-year stint with the Courage. She is arguably one of the most valuable forwards in the league, with 51 career goals and a league-leading 27 assists, and was a member of the 2019 U.S. Women’s National Team World Cup Champion squad.

Nadia Nadim will likely find herself a valuable player to Racing as well, with international experience for both club and country. Nadim found herself in Louisville after signing a contract with them in June 2021, returning to the NWSL after four years playing for Manchester CIty and Paris Saint-Germain. She was a member of two other NWSL teams, the Portland Thorns and Sky Blue FC, before leaving to play abroad, and her experience will be integral to support the youth of Racing.

What do I want to see?

​​Racing Louisville FC found themselves at the bottom of the table in 2021, only ahead of last-place Kansas City. This season is a chance for them to get a fresh start after a rocky first year. The club had many moments of brilliance, but were caught lacking in important moments.

Filling the gap that Yuki Nagasato occupied in 2021 will be a major task for Racing, and one that could dictate the midfield’s strength. Nagasato was the backbone of Louisville, largely due to her experience and flare. Her presence was felt across the field, as she was often seen on the attacking end creating chances for others as well as protecting the team defensively. Nagasato re-signed with the Chicago Red Stars in January.

With five wins and seven draws last year, Racing must be able to capitalize on any opportunities they have. Turning even three of those draws into wins could have been the difference between placing lower or higher in the standings. Executing on as many chances as possible is something that can be learned through experience, and fortunately many younger players on the roster will now have enough years on them to be able to bring a sense of calm confidence in critical moments.

Full Preseason roster

GOALKEEPERS (4): Hillary Beall (NRI), Jordyn Bloomer (CDP), Gabby Kouzelos (NRI), Katie Lund

DEFENDERS (8): Gemma Bonner, Sydney Cummings (CDP), Emily Fox, Nealy Martin, Charmé Morgan (CDP), Addisyn Merrick, Erin Simon, Emily Smith (NRI)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Savannah DeMelo (CDP), Jaelin Howell, Taylor Malham (NRI), Lauren Milliet, Freja Olofsson, Taylor Otto, Sadie Sider-Echenberg (NRI)

FORWARDS (9): Kirsten Davis, Emina Ekic, Parker Goins (NRI), Cece Kizer, Cheyna Matthews (NYR), Jess McDonald, Jenna Menta (CDP), Nadia Nadim (NYR), Ebony Salmon


CDP – NWSL College Draft Pick

NRI – Non-Roster Invitee

NYR — Not Yet Reported


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