The Washington Spirit announced two moves today, with forward Cheyna Matthews placed on Player Elected Leave and goalkeeper Devon Kerr signing with the club. Matthews, 26, is expected to remain on leave into some point in May. NWSL policy doesn’t dictate whether players can have paid leave for family reasons, but the Spirit have confirmed that Matthews will stay on the pay roll while she’s away from the club.
“Two things can be true: You can absolutely love your job, and love your family. This is very very true in my case, which makes stepping away from my NWSL club for a while an extremely tough decision to make,” said Matthews via team press release. “Ultimately, I am confident that this is what’s best for my family, club, and myself at this time. I’ve never been satisfied with anything less than 100% commitment in anything that I do and when that is possible for me again in the club environment, I will be back.”
“While the NWSL did not have a specific policy regarding Cheyna’s family situation, we made the decision to provide the paid leave to Cheyna to enable her to take care of her family. We have also committed to enabling Cheyna to resume her playing career elsewhere if it is in the best interest of her family,” said head coach Richie Burke in the same release. “Cheyna has a wonderful story and a terrific family. It has been a pleasure to get to know her and Jordan, their son JoJo, and their extended family the past year. One of the highlights from our 2019 season was when Cheyna scored two goals the day before her first Mother’s Day. We will continue to support Cheyna and her family during these next couple of months,” added Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin.
Selected 7th overall in the 2016 NWSL Draft, Matthews has 11 goals and 3 assists spread across 55 appearances in her three seasons with the Spirit, including finishing 2nd on the team with 5 goals in 2017. Matthews missed the 2018 season while pregnant, but came back to put up 3 goals and 2 assists last year in a season that also saw her play for Jamaica in their first-ever World Cup.
Meanwhile, Kerr rounds out the Spirit’s goalkeeping corps on a two-year contract that includes an option for the 2022 season. The 22 year old is a Canadian-born dual citizen, and joins Washington from FC Metz in D1 Féminine, who she had joined in January. Previously, Kerr spent the 2019 season playing for the Houston Dash, though she didn’t make an appearance.
Before going pro, Kerr had 63 appearances at Ohio State, where she was the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year in 2018 and made Top Drawer Soccer’s All-America Third Team. As a senior, Kerr was part of a defense that posted 8 shutouts in 19 games (all of which she started). With the Spirit, she’ll be competing with undrafted signing Katie Lund to be the primary back-up to Aubrey Bledsoe.
The two moves leave the Spirit with 25 players under contract, with one remaining roster spot available. The club has previously said they plan on clarifying who occupies the four supplemental roster spots at a later date.