The North Carolina Courage made an unexpected move on Monday, announcing that they would be signing Swedish forward/midfielder Julia Spetsmark for the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League season. The signing comes at a time when most international players are moving closer to home ahead of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France this summer.
Spetsmark, 29, is a fringe player for the Swedish Women’s National Team with just four career appearances. She has played 166 club games, primarily in the Swedish women’s league Damallsvenskan where she has scored 44 career goals with four different teams. She briefly joined Manchester City and made five appearances for the English side before going back to Sweden due to a lack of playing time. Spetsmark is looking for a high level of training and competition to earn a roster spot at the World Cup.
A mixed history with internationals
The North Carolina Courage have been trying to find a consistent contributor for their fourth international slot since coming to Cary, NC ahead of the the 2017 NWSL season. Every team in the league is provided four international spots that can be traded or used to bring in players from outside the United States. New Zealand defender Abby Erceg and Brazilian attacking midfielder Debinha both started with the team in 2017. That was Debinha’s first year in the league while Erceg had been a long-time players in the United States. The Courage also started the 2017 season with Japanese defender Yuri Kawamura on the team, but she suffered an ACL injury in May and was put on IR. She stayed with the team in 2018 until she suffered a second ACL injury during the ICC Women’s Championship. She is not expected back for 2019, but she played extremely well for the Courage when she was healthy. The Courage also have Irish midfielder Denise O’Sullivan on the roster. O’Sullivan came from the Houston Dash in the second half of the 2017 season and played a huge role for the Courage during the 2017 playoffs and throughout the 2018 season.
On the other side of the coin, a few international players have not been a good fit for the team. Brazilian midfielder Rosana was with the team to start 2017, but she was released in June after failing to find a role. She was eventually replaced by Norwegian defender Nora Holstad Berge, but she couldn't get to the necessary fitness level and played just a few minutes for the team before announcing her retirement.
The good news for Spetsmark and for the Courage is that there is ample time for both parties to become acclimated to one another and build a solid relationship. Thanks to the recent transfer of forward Darian Jenkins to Seattle Reign FC, the Courage have an open spot available for a forward or attacking midfielder to fill. It is surprising that head coach Paul Riley took a risk bringing in a player that might be missing for more than half of the season while playing in the World Cup for her country, but the Courage front office has been proactive about filling holes in the roster with experienced players and this signing fits that vision.
We wish the best to Julia and hope that she is able to find a home in North Carolina.