The first trade of the 2016 NWSL offseason was a blockbuster. The Spirit traded U.S. international Ali Krieger to the Orlando Pride on Tuesday, ending her four-year run with the Spirit that culminated with a trip to last month’s NWSL Championship. In return the Spirit swapped positions with the Pride in the Distribution Ranking Order.
“We’re ecstatic to get Ali Krieger to the club,” Pride coach Tom Sermanni said. “She’s one of the best players in the country. She’s extremely experienced, a great leader, great personality and a great signing for us leading into 2017. I think she’ll help both on the field and off the field. She’s a real, thorough professional so her preparation will start to influence and help our younger players. Her focus and her quality in her training and play will be a huge asset to the team.”
Distribution Ranking Order is the priority for which NWSL teams can claim players slated to enter the league being subsidized by their respective federations. The original order is the reverse of the standings of the most recent season through the conclusion of the NWSL Championship. That means the Spirit are now second in line behind the Boston Breakers while the Pride drop to ninth.
The mechanism was announced the morning of the 2016 draft but has never been used. Immediately following the announcement the Thorns traded the 3rd overall pick to the Breakers (used on Christen Westphal) in exchange for the top priority. It was expected the Thorns were going to use it on Mallory Pugh but the teen sensation opted instead to enroll at UCLA. (Ironically, Pugh wound up sitting out her freshman year in deference to the U-20 World Cup.)
Krieger was part of U.S. Soccer’s original allocation to the Spirit in January 2013. In four seasons she started in 60 of 63 regular season appearances totaling 5,269 minutes. She scored 3 goals as a Washington Spirit. The club reached the playoffs the last three seasons although Krieger did not travel for the 2015 semifinal in order to attend her father’s wedding. This year she was a surprising return to the club six days after the U.S. was eliminated from the Olympics to play in a makeup game in Houston. In the NWSL Championship she was one of three players to have her penalty saved by Sabrina D’Angelo in what was a crushing loss for the Spirit. The other two to be saved were Tori Huster and Diana Matheson, who are now the only two players from the original Spirit team still with the club.