Thorns send LeBlanc to Chicago, trade for Farrelly

Jeff Kassouf January 13, 2014 11

Karina LeBlanc has been traded to the Chicago Red Stars after Portland signed German GK Nadine Angerer. (Photo Copyright Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

Portland Thorns FC traded championship-winning goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc to the Chicago Red Stars on Monday in exchange for a second round college draft pick in 2015. The Thorns also acquired midfielder Sinead Farrelly from FC Kansas City in exchange for a second round pick in Friday’s 2014 NWSL College Draft.

Portland sending LeBlanc to Chicago comes as no surprise as a deal that has been in the works for at least a couple of weeks and comes just hours after Portland made official the signing of German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, who won 2013 FIFA World Player of the Year on Monday.

The moves present an interesting juxtaposition of new Thorns coach Paul Riley’s old Philadelphia players. LeBlanc split time with Val Henderson in 2010 with Riley’s Independence team, but LeBlanc was never solidified as the No. 1, so she moved to magicJack in 2011.

Farrelly, on the other hand, who Riley considered a prized young player in Philadelphia, but she struggled to fit into a crowded and very good midfield in Kansas City. So now she reunites with her old coach in Portland, where the midfield is still plenty crowded as well.

“Sinead is a versatile player and was one of the best box-to-box midfielders in WPS,” Riley said. “She is smooth, intelligent and has an engine second to none. Having coached her before, I know her strengths and she brings a lot to the table and will be a great addition to our 2014 team. She will relish playing in Portland’s atmosphere and she has the potential to be a fan favorite.”

FC Kansas City’s acquired second round pick in the other deal is No. 16 overall for Friday’s draft. The Blues also added a third round pick in Friday’s draft earlier in the day in a deal that sent goalkeeper Bianca Henninger to the Houston Dash.

  • xman22702

    Chicago looks like they are gradually rebuilding there team. They can be a dark horse in the NWSL this year.

  • Reality

    LeBlanc is a professional and will do well wherever she goes, but she must be having some mixed feelings about this trade after her invaluable service with Portland. It is great for Chicago as it gives them a proven stopper in goal.

    With that problem taken care of, Chicago can focus on Friday’s college draft. With 3rd and 4th picks in hand, they can lay down the foundation for an excellent midfield that will support their new found offense. The obvious players to consider are Julie Johnston, Vanessa DiBernado or Mandy Laddish. All have good skills that can support the kind of offense Coach Dames originally tried to implement last year with the team of “…our wanting to play and connect and play little passes and move and combine…”. This type of strategy would suit Press well in working with Chalupny and Tancredi.

    If Chicago has a decent first half season, by the time Press comes on board, they could be in good position for the playoffs.

    • Lorehead

      If you look at her leg of the trade in isolation, it seems insulting to her—traded for a second-round draft pick next year, which will only pay off if her team doesn’t do well with her in goal?

      But you should really look at the larger context of the deal. First, Chicago sends MacLeod to Houston for Tancredi ahead of the draft so that the teams can safely protect their field players instead of their goalies, while Portland frees up some cap room with Shim and Edwards. Then, KC sends its backup goalie to Houston and Farrelly to Portland for a second-round draft pick, and Portland sends LeBlanc to Chicago for a second-round draft pick. In reality, the draft picks are just being exchanged as tokens in a four-team deal, because each trade has to be for someone.

      • Reality

        Your rationale makes sense and I would not dispute it. My point had to do more with speculation re: LeBlanc’s possible feelings in the matter. But as I indicated, as a professional, she will do what is necessary in the transition to Chicago. Trades such as these make sense on an administrative level, but they can affect both the players and the fans by the manner in which they are handled. How it will all turn out remains to be seen in the coming season. But that is what makes it all so interesting.

        Putting aside that aspect for the moment, what is your take on the respective benefits of the trade for the teams?

        • Lorehead

          I think that Portland did not get the best deal it possibly could have for the four starters from last year it’s given away so far. The Thorns could definitely have gotten some allocated player for LeBlanc, who would not even have cost them anything. For that matter, a ruthless team would not need to have arranged a deal for Houston to get its goalie before the draft, and therefore made itself the big loser.

          But that was possibly intentional. A competitive league will be healthier in the long run and therefore is in Merritt Paulson’s enlightened self-interest. In fact, last year’s outcome, in which Portland won in a photo finish, was ideal for them. The pattern that is therefore emerging seems to be one of utter pragmatism about replacing players when someone better from outside the league becomes available, but at the same time, asking for less than it could get for the players it’s replacing.

          • Reality

            If you wish to focus on Portland, they might have done better in these transactions if, as you imply, Paulson decided to really play hard ball. But, he is intelligent enough to recognize that this would not serve him well with the other teams, the fans, or the players. The Thorns have been granted an abundance of wealth from their inception and they are in many ways the ideal venue to promote soccer. But it would not serve the NWSL if they became the Yankees of the league. So ultimately, Portland made out the best of the teams involved both in the short and long term of it. However, I am uncomfortable with the concept of enlightened self interest of any ilk calling the shots no matter how beneficent they may appear.

            In another thread, I was speculating that a positive development for the players in the NWSL would be unionization to protect their interests and support their careers. But I have a suspicion that the club owners would not be favorably disposed.

          • Lorehead

            The fact that the Thorns are such an overnight success gives its non-allocated players some actual bargaining power, since there are profits to divide.

        • Lorehead

          But you did ask about the respective benefits of the trade for the teams, not just Portland (which you correctly point out I’ve been focusing on). Chicago is plainly the winner here: it exchanges MacLeod for LeBlanc, who was at least as good last year, adds Tancredi, and loses just a future second-round draft pick. In addition, it will have Christen Press instead of Ella Masar, possibly as soon as after the next round of the UEFA CL, and the third and fourth picks of the college draft.

          Houston got a good keeper, and there were enough good players in the draft that I don’t think it minded all the goalies taking up unprotected slots that much. It also was not as ruthless in the draft as it could have been.

          FCKC really must be breathing a sigh of relief as Houston took somebody who wasn’t going to play for them anyway. They didn’t get much for Farrelly, though. It had a number of unprotected discovery players on its roster; I wonder if any of them will lead to signings.

          • Reality

            I had already given my analysis of Chicago and we substantively match there. Houston seems to be solid on defense with McLeod, Engen, and Klingenberg but I think their offense is still inadequate. I would guess they will choose Ohai or Hayes with their first pick in the draft on Friday. All in all though, a good start for a brand new team and I’m sure there will be more shuffling of the roster.

            Kansas City is harder to judge. They faded at the end of last season after a strong start. They do have Rodriguez now which should help their offense. Hagen is lurking in the future for them. And they have a #5 pick in the draft. I’m curious to see how Andonovski will manage strategy for the team this year. They should be a contender along with Portland, Seatlle, and Western New York. I’ll put Chicago as a dark horse for the top 4 if they have a good first half.

  • nwslfan

    IMO, KK’s deficit is lies in distribution, but she’ll do fine at CRS. yea for Sinead!!

  • rdalford

    Good to see Sinead Farrelly back playing for Riley. She is a hard working creative player and played well for Riley with Philly. Hope she does well with Portland.