Women make first visa signing

The Wellington Phoenix have made their maiden move in the women’s international transfer market, securing a player with experience in one of the world’s top leagues.

The Phoenix have signed American attacking midfielder Hope Breslin for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League.

Breslin, 24, was Angel City FC’s first-ever draft pick in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and made eight appearances for the Los Angeles club last year, before moving to the Houston Dash, where she’s recently been on a national team replacement contract.

The Nix have been able to make their first visa signing as FootballAustralia has relaxed the restrictions imposed on the women’s team, removing the limit on New Zealand signings and the quota of Australian players.

“That’s huge for us being able to operate as all of the other teams in the A-League do,” Phoenix head coach Paul Temple said.

“We now can bring in visa players that aren’t at the expense of our Kiwis and build a squad that’s based on the ability of the players and the balance of the squad, as opposed to their nationality.

“Both Gemma (Lewis) and Nat (Lawrence) have had to work under quite restrictive regulations that’s been really difficult.

“We can now have five visa spots and it doesn’t come off our New Zealand quota like it did in the first couple of seasons.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MAY 21: Jun Endo #18 of Angel City FC and Hope Breslin #26 of Angel City FC celebrate following a game against the Kansas City Current at Banc of California Stadium on May 21, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images for Angel City FC)

As a result “more visa signings are on the way”.

“We’ve got such a great core that we’ve re-signed from last year and now it’s just adding in the players to fill the spots that we need,” Temple said.

“It’s a big moment for us as a team and as a club that we’re now looking into these markets.

“In Hope’s case we’re bringing someone in who’s played in the NWSL. That’s the equivalent of the Premier League or La Liga in the men’s game. It’s one of the top two leagues in the world.

“It’s been a lot of effort and a lot of work to get to this point, but we wanted to go down this route to get the fans excited, to get the team excited and help us raise the bar.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – MAY 07: Newly appointed Head Coach Paul Temple speaks to media during a Wellington Phoenix women’s head coach announcement at Ricoh Sports Centre on May 07, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Breslin fits the bill as an attacking midfielder who can play centrally or as a winger.

“It’s no secret we’ve been trying to recruit players at the top end of the pitch to make us more of a threat from an attacking point of view.

“Hope’s a very, very creative and technical player. She can beat people one-vs-one and plays a style of football that we want to play, but can also score goals and assist with goals.

“In the discussions with Hope she’s a great personality and we feel she’ll be a great fit on and off the pitch for us.”

Hope Breslin has never played outside of the U.S.A. but has “always been interested in coming to the A-League”.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 01: Hope Breslin #26 of Angel City FC dribbles against Natalie Beckman #45 and Morgan Weaver #22 of Portland Thorns during the second half at Banc of California Stadium on July 01, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images for Angel City FC)

“I was excited to give playing overseas a try and grow my game a bit, so when the Wellington Phoenix expressed interest, I felt like I had to jump on the opportunity,” Breslin said.

“I had a zoom call with Paul Temple and I felt like it went really well.

“I love his vision for the team and what they’re trying to grow and I feel like I can fit in and be a part of that within the club.”

The University of Illinois alum has “heard a lot of good things about New Zealand” and the A-League from friends and players within the NWSL, including Football Ferns co-captain Ali Riley.

“Ali was my teammate at Angel City. She has only ever had great things to say about the culture of New Zealand and how beautiful it is.

“She was the captain of Angel City as well. She’s such a leader and a good teammate, and someone who I’ve always turned to whenever I needed help or advice.

“I’m really excited to get to New Zealand and let her know what I think of it as well.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 29: Madison Hammond #99, Savannah McCaskill #9, and Hope Breslin #26 of Angel City FC celebrate their win over North Carolina Courage at Banc of California Stadium on April 29, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Hope Breslin is the 12th player confirmed in the Wellington Phoenix women’s squad for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, joining fellow midfielders Chloe Knott, Grace Wisnewski and Alyssa Whinham, goalkeeper Brianna Edwards, defenders Michaela Foster, Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Marisa van der Meer and Rebecca Lake, and forwards Emma Main and Michaela Robertson.

The Phoenix women will start pre-season training early next month, with the A-League to kick-off on October 14.

Wellington Phoenix women’s memberships are now on sale for just $99 until the end of the month!