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Portland Thorns Bring Back Kat Williamson, Welcome McCall Zerboni

The Thorns have made their first big move of the offseason today.

Brett Carlsen

After several quiet months, the Thorns are finally getting in on the action as trades fly around left and right in the NWSL. Following a season that saw the team struggle against some of the improved sides in the league following their 2013 championship, the Thorns made a move today to strengthen their defense, bringing in defender Kat Williamson and defensive midfielder McCall Zerboni from the Western New York Flash in exchange for defensive midfielder Amber Brooks.

Williamson returns to the Thorns after being traded away during the 2014 season as a part of the trade for the rights to sign attacking midfield star Veronica Boquette. Now entering her third year as a professional, Williamson was a regular starter for both the Thorns and the Flash and will likely be reunited with her rookie-year partner, Rachel Van Hollebeke, in the center of the Portland defense.

Zerboni, meanwhile, is a veteran of the US leagues, playing for Western New York in its various incarnations for the last three years. With the Thorns stacked with attacking midfield talent, Zerboni will provide some defensive bite for the team in the center of the park, providing an experienced replacement for Brooks.

The moves will help the Thorns provide a solid base to build on this season as the team will likely lose a number of players to the Womens World Cup in the middle of the season and may be missing several players at the beginning of the year as they finish out their offseason loans with overseas clubs.

The Thorns' press release:

THORNS FC ACQUIRE DEFENDER KAT WILLIAMSON, MIDFIELDER McCALL ZERBONI FROM WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH IN EXCHANGE FOR MIDFIELDER AMBER BROOKS

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Thorns FC have acquired the rights to defender Kat Williamson and midfielder McCall Zerboni from the Western New York Flash in exchange for midfielder Amber Brooks, it was announced today.

Williamson, 25, appeared in 21 matches (20 starts) during the 2014 regular season for the Western New York Flash. Williamson was traded to the Flash on April 5 as part of a move that granted Portland the right to midfielder Vero Boquete. The eighth overall pick by Portland in the first round of the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League College (NWSL) Draft from the University of Florida, Williamson made her professional debut with Thorns FC in 2013 and ranked second on the team in minutes (1,944) during her rookie campaign. A native of McKinney, Texas, Williamson was one of three players to start all 24 matches during the 2013 season as she helped guide Portland to the 2013 NWSL Championship.

"Kat returning home to Portland will give us depth, leadership and quality in the back," Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley said. "She has championship experience and it's brilliant to have her back."

Zerboni, 27, played three professional seasons with the Western New York Flash in both the NWSL and Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), helping guide the Flash to the 2011 WPS title and the championship match of the 2013 NWSL Playoffs. In two NWSL seasons with Western New York, Zerboni appeared in 46 matches, recording four goals and two assists. During the 2014 season, Zerboni was one of nine players in the NWSL to appear in all 24 regular-season matches (23 starts) and ranked seventh in the league in minutes played (2,036), while recording three goals and two assists.


"McCall has been on my radar for a long time," Riley said. "She has a great engine, an experienced mind and tremendous competitive appetite. Both are proven starters in this league and I look forward to working with them."

A former United States youth international, Zerboni was the 47th overall pick in the 2009 WPS Draft by the Los Angeles Sol, recording one goal and one assist in 10 appearances (four starts). Zerboni was selected in the 2009 WPS Expansion Draft by the Atlanta Beat and made 20 appearances for the club before signing with the Flash for the 2011 season.

"It was a very difficult decision to trade Amber, but we felt we needed to improve our numbers of players available during the season and getting two top players certainly helps us during a World Cup year," Riley added. "Amber was a massive plus for us last season and will certainly be missed. We wish her all the best with her new team."

Brooks, 23, appeared in 20 regular-season matches (19 starts) for Thorns FC in 2014, recording a goal and two assists. She made her debut for Portland on April 12 in a 1-0 win on the road against the Houston Dash, starting and playing all 90 minutes.

Kat Williamson
Position: Defender
Height: 5-6
Born: Aug. 1, 1989 in McKinney, Texas
Hometown: McKinney, Texas
Last Club: Western New York Flash
College: Univ. of Florida
Citizenship: United States

McCall Zerboni
Position: Midfielder
Height: 5-4
Born: Dec. 13, 1986 in Camarillo, Calif.
Hometown: Camarillo, Calif.
Last Club: Western New York Flash 
College: UCLA
Citizenship: United States