Abby Dahlkemper will not play in the NWSL this season, despite NC Courage's best efforts. Instead, she will return to Manchester City after the Olympics and potentially see out the rest of her contract in England. The center-back joined the WSL side in January on a two-and-a-half-year contract and the club were not willing to let her go before that contract expired.
During her national team duty in the Summer Series with the USWNT, there was speculation that she might make the move back to her former NWSL team, the North Carolina Courage. Unfortunately for the Courage, that did not transpire.
Nick Schnittker of the Technician first reported that the deal to bring Dahlkemper back to the Courage had fallen through and Paul Riley recently confirmed that this was officially the end of their chase to bring Dahlkemper back to North Carolina.
I asked Paul about the two incoming signings and he said negotiations surrounding the one already in Raleigh (widely believed to be Dahlkemper) have broken down and she will not be be coming back to the Courage.— Nicholas Schnittker (@nick_schnittker) June 21, 2021
It's understandable why both teams want her in their backline. Over the past few years, Dahlkemper has become the best center-back in the US. After making her USWNT debut in October 2016, Dahlkemper went through a tough transition from club play to international play. Her club form remained immaculate but her USWNT form remained inconsistent. Once she got herself acclimatised to how one should defend on the national team level, Dahlkemper cemented her place as the starting center back alongside Becky Sauberbrunn.
One of the things that makes Dahlkemper such a key player and why her services were being negotiated for, is her ability to not only slide rule a pass but also ping it 20+ yards across the field. In two very attack-minded teams like the Courage and Manchester City, a center-back that moves the ball that accurately adds to their abilty to either keep possession or attack quickly from another angle.
Dahlkemper’s consistency is only one part of what makes her an asset on any team. Dahlkemper’s passing and distribution have always been good but has improved over the past few years. During her 2017 club season, Dahlkempers’ long passes were only 43.8% accurate but in 2020, her average passing accuracy was 56.5% during the Challenge Cup and Fall Series. In Dahlkemper’s eight games for Manchester City, her short, medium and long passing completion rates were all above 75%. Her short passes completion rate is a league-best at 95.6% as well. When it comes to her switch of play, Dahlkemper averages 1.53 passes every 90 minutes while the league average is 1.40. In the NWSL Dahlkemper has 107 key passes from 2017-2020 (71 games). To compare that to an attacking player, Megan Rapinoe has 96 key passes in 41 games which shows you just how vital a weapon Dahlkemper is when passing out from the back.
Dahlkemper continuing to play in the WSL may not be great for the Courage but it is good news for the USWNT. Despite potentially not being available for non-FIFA window camps, playign abroad will develop Dahlkemper even further as a defender and a player. She continues to adapt to a new style of play with Manchester City and will test herself against some of the best players in Europe and in England throughout her time there. For what Vlatko Andonovski's trying to do with the USWNT, Abby Dahlkemper's time in England will surely help with that and keep her as one of the first names pencilled in on the teamsheet.