The NWSL offseason is a marathon. We’re somewhere around mile four or five now, finally warm but still only at the beginning. So remember to pace yourself, hydrate, and try not to think too much about the finish line, because it’s a long ways away.
Portland trades for #1 draft pick
The Portland Thorns sent Emily Sonnett, the rights to Caitlin Foord, and the #7 and #14 overall draft picks to Orlando in exchange for the #1 draft pick. They’ll likely use that pick to draft Sophia Smith first overall, with the rumor being Smith basically wouldn’t declare for the draft unless she go to the Thorns. It’s also a tossup on whether Foord actually goes to Orlando or tries to move to another league.
Things move/change quick in the NWSL but I was told 48 hours ago this #1 draft pick trade may end up in a player also heading to the FA WSL (not Sonnett).— Rich Laverty (@RichJLaverty) January 8, 2020
This is part of a pattern now in NWSL where the top draft picks basically force moves to the team they want. Which is fine - players are free to want to play wherever they want, and obviously should have a say in where they end up. It’s on the teams to decide if they want to make that happen or not, and Portland have clearly decided that despite Sonnett being quite a solid piece at CB for them, it’s time for a change in the wake of their 2019 struggles. Speaking of time for a change...
Sky Blue gets more scoring power
Portland also dealt another card from the deck as they traded Midge Purce and their natural 2021 first round draft pick to Sky Blue FC for Raquel Rodriguez. This could be a nice win-win for both teams. It was clear from 2019 that Sky Blue really needed someone else to help carry the scoring load with Imani Dorsey now pushed into a fullback role, and Purce could be a really nice complementary piece to arrange around Carli Lloyd. Of course, this assumes Lloyd continues to go on a tear in 2020, but she has plenty of motivational material with a turnaround story lurking near the surface for Sky Blue. It also assumes Purce is going to be a forward for Sky Blue, and if you’ve noticed, Vlatko Andonovski has been calling her in as a defender for the USWNT. Sigh.
As for Portland, adding midfielder Rodriguez could particularly help during the Olympics, but might also be the depth they need all season long.
More deals for Sky Blue?
Keep in mind that Sky Blue also still have the rights to their 2019 first-round draft picks, Hailie Mace and Julia Ashley. At the time, Sky Blue was a, how do you say, bit of a mess. But they made big changes following Mace and Ashley both refusing to join Sky Blue and jaunting off to Sweden instead. So they have some good pieces on the board to either try and convince to come back, or to deal away as they continue improving their roster.
Houston Dash take Stengel
The Houston Dash traded the #12 overall pick in the 2020 draft and their natural 2021 draft pick to the Utah Royals to acquire Katie Stengel. Following on the heels of the news that the Dash re-signed Rachel Daly with allocation money to put her over the max salary, it sounds like they’re trying to find the right players to put around her to climb out of the seventh-place doldrums they landed in last season. Meanwhile, Utah is now out a head coach and has some draft picks to work with, assuming they aren’t accumulating them for more trades. If we know anything, there’s always more trades in the banana stand.
Andressinha leaves Portland
After all the trade news, Portland also announced Andressinha will be leaving the team, calling it a mutual parting. In combination with all their other moves today, the Thorns really are trying to make changes and while they’re not exactly cleaning house, they’re definitely doing some pre-spring tidying.
NWSL announces draft livestream details
The 2020 college draft will stream on Youtube and Facebook this year, starting at 11 AM ET on Thursday, January 16. NWSL announced that Marisa Pilla, Lori Lindsey, Jen Cooper, and Jordan Angeli will be the broadcast team calling the draft live.
We’ll keep this post updated throughout the day with any more moves. Until then, sit up straight, unclench your jaw, and look away from your screen for five minutes to rest your eyes.