After four seasons with Reign FC, forward Nahomi “Naho” Kawasumi is heading to New Jersey to continue her professional career with Sky Blue FC.
Reacting to news of Naho’s departure, Reign FC captain Megan Rapinoe shared her thoughts, “I will be forever grateful to have shared the pitch, training ground, and locker room with Naho,” said Rapinoe. “Her level of professionalism and understanding of the game is unparalleled. But far more than all that, she is an incredible person who will be missed in our locker room. Naho-san I wish you all the best in your next adventure!”
Kawasumi first signed with Reign FC on loan from INAC Kobe Leonessa for the 2014 NWSL season. Naho was key to the club’s transformation that season: she scored nine goals, added five assists, and was named to the NWSL Best XI. Naho was a critical part of winning the first of Reign FC’s back-to-back NWSL Shields. In 2014, Reign FC won the NWSL Shield, advanced to the playoffs, and made the NWSL Championship match for the first time in club history.
Naho re-signed with Reign FC midway through the 2016 season, scoring a brace in her debut against the Boston Breakers on July 3, 2016. She went on to play in all ten games after re-signing and made eight starts, finishing the season with three goals and two assists.
Following the conclusion of the 2016 NWSL season, Kawasumi returned to INAC Kobe Leonessa on loan for the remainder of its L.League season. INAC Kobe Leonessa went on to win the 2016 Empress’s Cup over Albirex Niigata Ladies.
Reign FC forward Beverly Yanez played alongside Naho both in Seattle and for INAC Kobe Leonessa in Japan.
“I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from and grow with Naho for the past seven years,” said Yanez. “I’m glad to have made a lifelong friend. Wishing her all the best throughout life and her career.”
Kawasumi returned to Seattle for the 2017 NWSL season, during which she played in all 24 matches, starting in 22 and scoring six goals. She added nine assists on the season and set a NWSL record on May 13, 2017 with four assists in a single game against the Washington Spirit. In the same contest, she also became the first player in league history to be involved in five goals in a single match.
Reign FC midfielder Jess Fishlock played alongside Naho during her four seasons in Seattle.
“There are not enough words to describe my love for Naho. She changed the dynamic of the Reign when she arrived and taught us all a different way to see and play the game. She was instrumental in our success and I am still so in awe of her,” said Reign FC original Jess Fishlock. “As a person, she is the coolest, kindest type of person who everyone loves — a beautiful person with a beautiful soul. Seattle will miss you Naho, the fans will miss you and I will miss you very much. Good luck in Sky Blue — they are very lucky to have you.”
In 2018, Naho was part of a squad that returned to the NWSL playoffs for the first time since 2015. She appeared in 14 games in 2018, starting in 10 and tallying three assists.
Reflecting on her time with Reign FC, Naho shared the following statement regarding her departure:
Hello, our precious fans of Seattle Reign FC.
I am going to play for Sky Blue FC this season.
I tried to do my first challenge to play outside Japan in U.S.A.
Seattle Reign FC gave me such a feeling that playing in NWSL is so fun!!
My teammates, coaches, staff, fans, and the city of Seattle has been the best for me.
Although I’m very sad to leave my favorite club, please say hello again because we are friends forever.
I hope Seattle Reign FC will achieve a good outcome.
I appreciate all of you, Seattle.
“Days like this are difficult — it is hard to imagine a Reign FC squad without Naho,” said Seattle Reign FC owner and president Bill Predmore. “Naho has always played with a joy that is infectious and a quiet intensity deeply respected by all her teammates. Her quiet leadership, professionalism, tireless work ethic, intelligence and extraordinary talent have ensured that she will be forever recognized as one of the all-time greats to have played for our club.”