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Athletica's hand-forcing for Asante trade a bold move

After some commotion, Anita Asante and Nikki Washington indeed will be going to Saint Louis Athletica in exchange for India Trotter.  However, the true talking point is the 2011 first round draft pick that was dealt to Sky Blue FC along with Trotter.

By all estimations, Saint Louis did not have a 2011 first round draft pick to trade.

Athletica traded that away to the Los Angeles Sol May 8, 2009, in a trade that sent Kendall Fletcher and Christie Welsh to Saint Louis.  Los Angeles obviously ceased operations in January, but when it did so the franchise still possessed Athletica’s 2011 first round draft pick.

So, when Saint Louis went to trade away that draft choice to Sky Blue FC Tuesday, WPS headquarters was put into a predicament of whether or not to approve the trade.  Denying it would uphold the integrity of that May 2009 trade but would also essentially eliminate a draft pick in the 2011 WPS Draft because, simply, the pick would be in the hands of a team that does not exist.

Or would it be?

WPS retained the rights to the Los Angeles Sol brand and mark for the future, knowing that new owners are interested in a Los Angeles franchise and the market is at the top of the league’s expansion list.  If a Los Angeles franchise were able to make a comeback in time for the 2011 season, should it then retain that 2011 draft choice?

That may be too hypothetical of a situation for league to consider, but it will be an interesting side note if WPS is back in LA in 2011.  To be clear, should a franchise come into LA it would be a totally new one.  It could obtain the Los Angeles Sol name from WPS, but the franchise would be distinct from the LA Sol, meaning it really would not have an rights to that draft choice anyway.

The major talking point here seems to be Athletica’s role in the scenario.  Surely folks in Saint Louis knew that they had traded away their 2011 first round draft pick to LA, so the decision to trade it to Sky Blue FC was bold – dare I say ballsy.  It is possible that a lapse in memory caused all this, but I find that hard to believe.

Whether intentional or unintentional, Athletica forced the hand of WPS to make a decision on where the rights to that 2011 first round draft pick remain.  With the dilemma in the public spotlight, league officials had to either reject the trade and eliminate a draft pick from the first round of the 2011 WPS Draft or approve the trade and move on from anything that had to do with the LA Sol ceasing operations, a much more favorable situation from PR perspective.  Otherwise, the 2011 WPS Draft would still have LA as a topic of conversation as fans and media alike would struggle to figure out why the first round would be missing a selection.

In the end, Saint Louis Athletica’s gutsy move to push the issue on the draft pick benefits itself and Sky Blue FC.  By retaining the rights to the 2011 selection, that May 2009 trade essentially sent Fletcher and Welsh to Saint Louis for a 2010 first round draft pick (which ended up being Casey Nogueira, now with the Chicago Red Stars).  Now, Athletica will get a world-class defender in Asante (although her recovery may affect her play) and Sky Blue FC will get that 2011 draft pick – from Saint Louis, by way of LA, by way of Saint Louis – that otherwise would have disappeared.  That is, unless Athletica looked to trade it somewhere else in another bold and crafty maneuver.

Athletica was also supposed to receive LA’s 2011 second round pick in that Fletcher and Welsh deal, but that seems an afterthought with Saint Louis coming out of this having gotten away with one.

You React:  What do fans think of the decision to allow this trade to go through?  Was it the best decision or was there a better one?  Does Athletica or WPS look bad here?  Sky Blue FC is a quiet beneficiary of the situation as well.  Leave a comment below.


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