West Ham United announced today the team’s “permanent signing” of midfielder Emily van Egmond through the end of the 2020-2021 WSL season. The Australian international has been on loan from the Orlando Pride since August but the length of West Ham’s deal with van Egmond leaves room for her to return to the Pride early in the 2021 NWSL season, as the Pride will retain her league rights. She follows Shelina Zadorsky as Pride players to extend their WSL seasons through the end of the current campaign after the center back extended her stay at Tottenham yesterday.
Van Egmond is one of eight players to whom the Pride extended a contract offer for 2021. Of those eight, Alanna Kennedy was picked up by Racing Louisville in the NWSL Expansion Draft, defender Toni Pressley re-signed on Thursday, and Claire Emslie has permanently transferred to Everton. In addition, Camila, Kristen Edmonds, Sydney Leroux, and Marisa Viggiano remain unsigned with contract offers in hand.
On signing through the end of West Ham’s season, van Egmond told the club’s website:
“I’m really enjoying my football here at West Ham too, and I’m excited to be working with the new manager.
“It’s a great group of girls here. We’ve come in and had a bit of an up-and-down start to the season but towards the back end, before the Christmas break, I thought we were starting to find a bit of consistency.”
With five goals in 12 appearances in all competitions for West Ham so far, van Egmond has been making her mark in the FA WSL. This continues the form she showed while on loan with Melbourne City in the W-League between the 2019 and 2020 NWSL seasons, when she scored six goals in 13 games.
Expectations were high for van Egmond in 2020 after the Australian came off a career season with Melbourne City, where she won a W-League championship. The 27-year-old had also been in good form with Australia and seemed ready to turn in her best NWSL campaign to date when the pandemic shut things down. In fact, Melbourne City had won the title in an empty stadium as things were just beginning to shut down worldwide at the end of that W-League season. The Pride pulled out of the NWSL Challenge Cup and van Egmond went on loan to West Ham to get games.
The Pride signed van Egmond on Feb. 14, 2018 and the Aussie midfielder has played two seasons with Orlando, going on loan in 2020 prior to the NWSL Fall Series. She struggled a bit to adapt to the Pride in 2018, earning just a 4.5 rating (out of 10) for her season from The Mane Land staff. That grade improved to a 5 in 2019 despite the team being worse on the field. There were signs of things finally clicking into place with the Pride for van Egmond but an injury after the World Cup cut her 2019 season short after a 20-minute stint on July 20 vs. Sky Blue.
In the two NWSL seasons she played with Orlando, van Egmond has appeared in 25 games (19 starts), playing 1,726 minutes. She has yet to score a goal with the Pride, contributing two assists. Van Egmond has attempted 27 shots in her two Pride seasons but has managed to get only four of those on target. She passed at a 67% rate in 2018, improving that to 68.5% in her second season with Orlando. Defensively, she’s contributed 35 clearances.
What it Means for Orlando
First off, don’t panic. Though it’s easy to view the recent WSL signings as some kind of mass exodus, that’s not necessarily the case. Signing on to finish out the WSL season makes sense for players during a global pandemic, as there is so much uncertainty worldwide with what may happen over the next few months.
The players signing on to end their WSL seasons in England will be finishing up overseas just as the NWSL regular season gets started. Neither van Egmond nor Zadorsky have promised anything to the WSL (or had anything promised to them by the league) beyond the end of the current season. The NWSL and WSL seasons line up similarly to how the NWSL and W-League seasons did in recent years.
It would not be surprising if she finishes out West Ham’s 2020-2021 campaign — which ends May 9 against Manchester City — signs on for the 2021 NWSL season, and returns sometime in the first few weeks of the regular season. The NWSL plans to crank up in mid-May and players from overseas will likely have to do some international paperwork and go through some kind of quarantine upon their arrival.
The club would like to have van Egmond back and the contract offer stands. It’s a little different with Zadorsky, who is an allocated player from Canada, but she would also be expected to be allocated to Orlando if she returns to the NWSL following Tottenham’s season.
With the acquisition of Meggie Dougherty Howard from Washington in the Emily Sonnett trade, and the club exercising Jade Moore’s option, the Pride are in good shape at holding midfield — a deeper role van Egmond has sometimes been shoehorned into during her Orlando career. If van Egmond returns, she would likely have more freedom in the attack than she’s had in her first two seasons in Orlando, which could open up the attack. She has thrived in that role at West Ham and Melbourne City.
Depending on what happens with the pandemic, I would expect the Pride to try to reach an agreement with van Egmond for her return after the WSL season. If the Pride are unable to bring van Egmond back, the team has options. Marta can play deeper and Orlando has multiple young midfielders who can fill in, including Taylor Kornieck, Chelsee Washington and Viggiano (provided she re-signs). In addition, Dougherty Howard is a defensive midfielder by trade, but also creates scoring chances.