England and Racing Louisville star Salmon opens up on her rapid rise and team turmoil in first NWSL season

Ebony Salmon Racing Louisville NWSLGetty Images

Ebony Salmon has spoken out about a tumultuous first season in the NWSL that saw her take the league by storm, while also enduring a difficult spell that saw her team’s head coach terminated for cause.

The 20-year-old made the leap from Bristol City in her native England to Racing Louisville, scoring just 74 seconds into her NWSL debut in June and finishing the season with six goals to mark herself as one of the league’s top young forwards.

But 2021 was not an easy campaign for Racing Lousivlle, who saw their coach Christy Holly sacked in August and missed the playoffs in their debut season in the NWSL.

‘I’d literally never heard of Louisville!’

Salmon caught many by surprise when she left England in the summer to move to Louisville, a brand new team in an unfamiliar country and league.

Having established herself as an up-and-coming talent in the Women’s Super League with Bristol, Salmon admitted that she initially rejected the idea of moving to the States.

“When my agent first mentioned America to me, it was a hard no,” Salmon told GOAL on All of US: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Show.

“I warmed to [the idea] the more I spoke with Racing, the more I spoke to my agent, the more I spoke to my family about the opportunity and what this would do to me, and how much this would help me in my career.

“This is a move that if I didn’t make it when I did, I don’t think I would have ever made it. So I'm really happy I did make it because it’s been good for me and it’s going to carry on being good for my career.”

Salmon has also warmed to the city of Louisville – a place she admits she had never even heard of when the idea of joining Racing was first broached.

“I’d literally never heard of it,” she said with a laugh. “I'd heard of the state Kentucky but I didn't have a clue what Louisville was, where Louisville was, what was there – anything.

“It's definitely a nice place to live, it's not too busy. I think typically when people think of America they think it’s loads of people, it’s busy. [Louisville] is not that but I think it's definitely a good place to live.”

‘It was the right thing for him to go’

Salmon’s debut NWSL season was upended in late August when Holly was fired “for cause” and replaced by Mario Sanchez on an interim basis.

Though details of Holly’s actions are still unknown, Salmon agreed with the decision to let him go and said she was encouraged by the response her club and team-mates showed in the face of adversity.

“For me and for the team, it was obviously tough,” Salmon said. “No one really ever expects to lose a coach in the first season as a team. But I think it was the right thing for him to go.

“It wasn't easy for us as a team, but together we dealt with it, we pushed on from it. We responded well, we got incredible support from the club and everyone higher up at the club to give us everything we needed to move on from that and not forget about it.

“We didn't end up where we wanted to end up the season. We didn't make the playoffs, but I think we've come through a lot as a team which is going to stand us in good stead for the future.”

A quick adjustment

Salmon, who made her senior debut for England earlier this year, hit the ground running in the league with her quick-fire opening strike against Houston, and ended the 2021 campaign with six goals to lead her team.

The young forward said that the NWSL is different to the WSL, but that difference suits her style of play well.

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“The NWSL is a lot more direct, a lot more transitional, a lot more physical,” she said, “whereas I think the WSL is a lot more technical. 

“For me, direct and transitional and fast is my type of game.”

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