Two days ahead of their season opener against Kansas City, Racing Louisville FC have announced the signing of star striker Ebony Salmon from English FA Women’s Super League side Bristol City.
In a press release, Christy Holly acknowledged the 20-year-old England international’s fast development and emerging prowess throughout the European football pyramid — Salmon has enjoyed successful spells at Aston Villa and Sheffield United via Manchester United.
“Even at such a young age, Ebony has already proven to be a dangerous player and one that can have a very big impact upon our team,” said Holly.
Salmon will join Racing Louisville upon obtaining a visa. Her Bristol City side finished bottom of the WSL table after winning just two matches and have been relegated to the FA Women’s Championship. While Bristol’s offense was weak, bagging just eighteen goals in the league campaign, seven of those eighteen came from Salmon’s involvement, with six goals and an assist. All told, the striker notched ten goals in all competitions as the Robins’ leading scorer.
Salmon is a pacey and skillful attacker with an ability to create scoring chances even within an anemic offence such as Bristol City’s. According to FBRef.com, Salmon ranked in the 96th percentile in successful dribbles that lead to a shot attempt, with 0.89 per 90 minutes. Over an average match she had 4.45 carries towards the opponent’s goal at least five yards, and led the league in carries into the penalty area with 2.55. When she does find scoring opportunities, she is a clinical finisher. She dispatched six of the seven goals expected of her by FBRef’s statistical models.
Salmon said she is looking forward to the challenge of moving to the US and adapting to her new league, and team’s, style of play.
“After several conversations with Christy (Holly), it is clear to see the huge ambitions of this club, and I can’t wait to be a part of it,” said Salmon. “A move to the NWSL is going to be completely different to what I am used to, but at this point in my career I think it is the right opportunity and environment for me to push on and thrive.”
Salmon acknowledged that the NWSL’s physicality is outside of her comfort zone given what she’s used to in the technique-minded WSL. “I feel like the NWSL is a lot more physical, and a lot more based on an athlete rather than it is [technique], even though it is quite technical as well,” said Salmon. “I think for me that’s a massive part of my game and that’s why I think I’ll suit playing in this league really well.
“Just the difference between the two leagues that are kind of pushing me outside my comfort zone but also developing me as a player, whereas I don’t think I’d be able to develop in that way if I was to stay in the WSL,” Salmon continued.
Holly echoed Salmon’s opportunity for growth in Louisville, and believes that his club has assembled the right pieces around her to bring out the best in her game, shouting out midfielders Yuki Nagasato, Savannah McCaskill as well as forwards Emina Ekic and CeCe Kizer by name.
“With Yuki Nagasato, let’s go back a step and see what she did with (former Chicago Red Stars teammate) Sam Kerr, when she had a runner, when she had someone that wanted to move and behind and had an eye for goal, you give her the ball on a plate,” said Holly. “And the same for Savannah McCaskill — Savannah’s got such a great eye for goals, she’s got a great eye for combinations, releasing that final pass and then someone Emina Ekic that likes to come inside and work with pace forward. So I think there’s going to be a lot of different pieces there that can work very well — and then you’ve got a CeCe Kizer who can compliment a lot of the skills and the assets that Ebony has.”
Salmon will join fellow England national team player Gemma Bonner, who will join Racing now that her season with Manchester City in the WSL has ended. Bonner has been capped by England seven times, while Salmon made her first senior appearance with the Lionesses in February.
While complimenting Salmon’s abilities, Holly explained what he is looking for when making signings for the Racing roster.
“We’re trying to identify good people that can play at the highest level, and that can represent this organization for a long time,” said Holly.
Meanwhile, Racing have the season opener to prepare for. Holly previewed the May 15th clash against fellow newcomers Kansas City, doing his best to set, and temper, his expectations heading into the regular season. Louisville are coming off a Challenge Cup performance that showed flashes of real promise, but also growing pains common for an inexperienced expansion side.
“We’re in the embryonic stages of our growth in the NWSL,” said Holly. “There’s no easy games in NWSL. If you take the foot off the gas for a second these teams will definitely punish you, and that’s happened to us a couple of times. I think there was definitely two or three games where, particularly in the first half, we should have put the game to bed, and we didn’t. And that’s a great lesson for us.”
While Holly said he would love to start the season with the franchise’s first victory, “we’re here to grow.”
“We’re here to get the foundations right,” said Holly. “We want this to be around for a long, long time, and to get a cheap win and underperforming…it wouldn’t be as productive as going through these challenging times where we’re growing and leaning on what we know best.”
Holly touched on his upcoming opponent, calling them “very dangerous”.
“They’ve got a very experienced team, they’ve been around for a long time,” said Holly. “They’ve got a real good spine to the team and what they did is, in the last six to twelve months, added a lot of pace, so a quite dangerous team that on the counter attack can be a real threat to us, so we need to be buttoned up and we need to be organized.”
Overall, Holly pointed to the lack of relative experience, but said that throughout the preseason he observed tremendous growth in the squad already.
“In terms of the growth of the individuals, the growth collectively as an organization. I couldn’t be more proud,” said Holly. “We do need to be patient. But I feel that with experience, this group can be a real threat to the NWSL.”
Racing Louisville’s season opening match against Kansas City will take place in Louisville’s Lynn Family Stadium on Saturday, May 15 at 5pm. The game will be broadcast live in the US on CBS Sports Network.
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Image courtesy of WDRB.com