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NWSL Transactions Tracker

Looking for National Women’s Soccer League news on who signed where or who got traded? Check back for updates here on all the transactions.

February 10, 2020

Orlando Pride sign Ali Riley

Insight: A historic signing for the league as the Pride dipped into their allocation money both to sign Riley and to pay a transfer fee to Bayern Munich to pry her away and back to the United States. Simply put, signings like this are the reason NWSL owners came up with allocation money. On the field, Riley is not a player who will light up the scoreboard or sell tickets, but she is a solid outside back who can both defend and attack, both of which are sorely needed elements in Orlando. Now 32, she was the No. 10 pick in the epic 2010 WPS Draft and at one time was considered the outside back that got away for the U.S. once she decided to play internationally for New Zealand. She’s a solid addition to a team trying to get off the bottom of the table. It will also be Riley’s fourth different stop where she will be Marta’s teammate after FC Gold Pride and the Western New York Flash of WPS, and FC Rosengard in Sweden.  –Dan Lauletta

February 3, 2020

Reign FC acquire Amber Brooks and Sofia Huerta and in exchange for Shea Groom, Megan Oyster and a conditional second-round pick in the 2022 draft

Reign analysis: The Reign took a step backward at center back and a step forward in their attack with this trade, the team’s first major move since naming Farid Benstiti head coach. Brooks is an ironwoman who will enter the new season carrying a league-record streak for consecutive minutes played, 6,483. But many of those minutes with the Dash were spent giving up goals. She will now be slotted next to Lauren Barnes in central defense for the Reign. Huerta will be key to the deal. She was never fully happy in Houston, but another change of scenery combined with a lack of positional pressure from the national team could make her a success in the Pacific Northwest.  — Dan Lauletta
Dash analysis: The unloading of Brooks and Huerta in the aftermath of dealing Kealia Ohai completes a major changing of the guard ahead of the second season under James Clarkson. Oyster will be the best center back the Dash have had since Whitney Engen in 2014 and she has a chance to join a better Dash. Oyster will join forces with Katie Naughton and they will be the two most important Dash players on the pitch. If they can close the fort down in front of Jane Campbell and keep balls out of the back of the net, the Dash will have a chance to compete. There will be questions up top, however. Groom showed some improvement last season when traded away from the mess that was Sky Blue in 2018, but was still a far cry from her FC Kansas City form when a rib injury shortened her season. The Dash will need scoring, and they’ll likely need Groom to provide more of it than she has the past few seasons. One way or another, this and the Ohai trade look to be the hills that Clarkson will live or die on as Dash coach.  — Dan Lauletta

January 24, 2020

Houston Dash acquire Erin Simon

Insight: We have our first known use of allocation money to pay an external transfer fee, which is something new (finally) available to NWSL teams as part of this ever-confusing allocation money. No word yet on how much was paid for the transfer fee. Simon cut her teeth in the NWSL with Sky Blue FC and most recently played for West Ham in England’s FA WSL. The Dash need all the defensive help they can get, though I never would have pegged Simon as the first to have a transfer fee paid. — Jeff Kassouf

January 22, 2020

Reign FC re-sign Jodie Taylor

Insight: The Reign are going to need more out of Taylor in 2020, which might be an ask since she’ll likely miss time for the Olympics. She scored five goals in 2019. The Reign have a lot of question marks heading into 2020, so locking up Taylor for one year with a one-year option gives them some stability up top. — Jeff Kassouf

Sky Blue FC re-sign Estelle Johnson

Insight: Johnson is a solid, veteran defender who Sky Blue expect to once again anchor their back line. I’m not ready to jump into the hyperbole of Sky Blue being a true contender, but they should be much better in 2020 and solidly mid-table. — Jeff Kassouf

January 17, 2020

Houston Dash sign Maegan Kelly

Insight: Kelly returns to the NWSL after spending 2019 with Fiorentina in Italy. She was drafted in 2014 and began her pro career with FC Kansas City, before moving abroad to several teams in Europe. She briefly appeared with Reign FC last year as a national team replacement player. Kelly has five caps for Canada, so she certainly has potential. It’s unclear at the moment how the midfielder will fit into Houston’s plans. — Jeff Kassouf

January 16, 2020

Sky Blue FC acquire Mallory Pugh from Washington Spirit in exchange for No. 4, No. 13, and No. 18 picks in 2020 draft and a first-round pick in 2021

Sky Blue analysis:  Let’s start with the obvious. This is a trade Sky Blue had to make. If you’re of the belief, as I may be leaning, that they overpaid, that’s fine. But they had to do it. Pugh offers the New Jersey club instant credibility and star power beyond the aging local Carli Lloyd. That’s not to say Lloyd can’t still play, but adding Pugh means another star on a team that needs things to go right in 2020. And it gives them an heir apparent to Lloyd as the face of the franchise.  Is she good enough? At her best, yes. Of course no one has ever seen Mal Pugh at her best for anything close to a lengthy stretch. In fact, she was last seen on an NWSL field limping off during the Spirit’s regular-season finale last year in Portland.  Sky Blue has spent many years stockpiling picks and bringing in young players. It was time to make a splash. If they can keep Pugh healthy and she reaches her potential, this is a grand slam. If they don’t, it is still unlikely that anyone the Spirit get with the picks they acquired will be enough to ever make this seem like it was a bad idea for Sky Blue to go ahead and pull the trigger on. –Dan Lauletta
Spirit analysis:  Right off the bat, the Spirit used the No. 4 pick on Ashley Sanchez, a UCLA junior with experience in the U.S. youth system. They later added Natalie Jacobs and Averie Collins and now have an extra first-round pick in what is expected to be a top-heavy 2021 draft. Here’s why I think it was a very good move: Pugh has been part of the Spirit since the spring of 2017, and her impact has been average at best. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t flashed greatness; who can forget her 2017 duel with Marta in one of the highlights of the Lifetime TV era? But the Spirit bottomed out in 2018 and then came to life in 2019, all with Pugh spending most of her time injured or with the national team. In other words, there were good things happening in Washington even without Pugh realizing anything close to her full potential. Is there a risk she will find that in 2020 and beyond and then terrorize the Spirit through the rest of the decade? Sure. But there is also a chance the Spirit use the picks they got here to keep getting better and that Pugh is rarely missed on the field. –Dan Lauletta

January 17, 2020

Sky Blue FC acquire Ifeoma Onumonu from Reign FC for rights to Julia Ashley

Sky Blue analysis:  There wasn’t a great trade market for Ashley considering she was drafted in the first round in 2019. It appears her stand to skip out on the NWSL instead of reporting to Sky Blue backfired, at least in the short term. In exchange for her rights, Sky Blue pick up another former first-round pick Onumonu, who split time between Portland and the Reign last season. Her highlight was pushing the semifinal into extra time with a late goal that shocked the Courage, only to have the hosts put up three in extra time. Solid acquisition for Sky Blue. –Dan Lauletta
Reign analysis:  The Reign have too many contracted players at the moment so this was just moving a lesser used one off the books and bringing in Ashley who will effectively be a trialist. If she can flash the form that made her a first-round pick, this will be a good move but they also might wind up missing Onumonu when key attackers are away this summer. –Dan Lauletta

January 16, 2020

Portland Thorns FC acquire Christen Westphal from Reign FC in exchange for the No. 33 pick in the 2020 draft

Thorns analysis:  Defensive depth play for the Thorns. What is ironic is Westphal’s odd place in NWSL history and her being traded the same day as Mallory Pugh. In 2016, when Pugh nearly decided to skip college and come into the NWSL, the league hastily arranged for a new rule that started the Distribution Ranking Order. The Thorns quickly traded the No. 3 pick to the Breakers for the right to move to the top of that list. The Breakers used that pick on Christen Westphal. Pugh wound up changing her mind and enrolling at UCLA only to come out a year later and be picked up by the Spirit, who were the atop the DRO. –Dan Lauletta
Reign analysis:  The Reign have a lot of players, so moving one to acquire a fourth-round pick makes some sense. Westphal was unlikely to see much time. The pick, Meg Brandt, will have to earn her way onto a deep roster. –Dan Lauletta

 

Orlando Pride acquire No. 3 pick in 2020 draft from Portland Chicago Red Stars in exchange for Rachel Hill, a first-round pick in 2021, and allocation money

Pride analysis:  The team traded out of the No. 1 pick traded back into the No. 3 spot and drafted Taylor Kornieck. Considering they likely were not going to get a chance to draft Sophia Smith, the Pride essentially traded Rachel Hill and some allocation money plus next year’s first-round pick for Emily Sonnett and maybe Caitlin Foord (who as of 1/24 officially joined Arsenal). Worth it? It’s certainly understandable. One thing Marc Skinner does not have is job security, so he won’t care about the 2021 first-rounder if he’s no longer in charge. More specific to this move, when you trade up to the higher regions of the first round, you’re making a big bet that the pick will work out. Will the Pride ever hold onto their first-round pick long enough to use it? –Dan Lauletta
Red Stars analysis:  Here’s how the day went for the Red Stars. They started with the 4th and 5th picks and wound up with no first-round picks at all (down from five at one point last year).  To show for it, they now have Rachel Hill, two mid-second-round picks (used on Julia Bingham and Camryn Biegalski), the Pride’s first-round pick in 2021, and about $30,000 in allocation money. Hill joins Kealia Ohai and Makenzy Doniak as the new committee tasked with replacing Sam Kerr‘s goals total. That doesn’t seem like quite enough just yet. Maybe there is another move in the offing, or maybe the Red Stars are deferring a year on the draft to 2021, which is expected to be a much stronger draft class overall. Either way, it doesn’t necessarily feel like, at least in the short term, that they did enough with the five first-round picks once stockpiled here. –Dan Lauletta

 

Portland Thorns FC acquire No. 2 pick in 2020 draft from Chicago Red Stars in exchange for No. 15 and No. 16 picks in the 2020 draft and allocation money

Thorns analysis:  The Thorns made this move and used the pick on Morgan Weaver. If she scores goals for the Thorns, it will be more than worth the freight. Indications are she is good enough to do so, but if not then it really depends on how things pan out with the Red Stars’ second-rounders. It is not, and may never be, all that easy to figure out the allocation money. Time will tell.  –Dan Lauletta
Red Stars analysis:  Weird day for the Red Stars, who moved up to this spot and then moved on. See above for a full analysis of their day. –Dan Lauletta

 

Chicago Red Stars acquire No. 2 and No. 3 picks in 2020 draft from Sky Blue FC in exchange for the No. 4 and No. 5 picks in the 2020 draft and allocation money

Red Stars analysis:  The Red Stars wound up moving on from both of these picks so they have already been covered elsewhere. –Dan Lauletta
Sky Blue analysis:  It’s not easy to trade down and then turn one of those picks, plus other assets, into Mallory Pugh, but that’s what Sky Blue did here. They took Evelyn Viens at No. 5 and also took on some allocation money. Hard to see this as a bad trade for Sky Blue –Dan Lauletta

January 14, 2020

Utah Royals acquire the No. 8 pick in 2020 draft from Chicago Red Stars in exchange for allocation money

Royals analysis:  Days after the Laura Harvey era ended in Utah, the Royals made a move that could signal a sea change when they traded into the 1st round. The first trade of allocation money — $60,000 — sets a new standard going forward, or at least starts to. –Dan Lauletta
Red Stars analysis:  Not sure anyone expected the Red Stars to be the first team to take on the right to spend more allocation money, but they have that place in history now. The unloading of another first-round pick leaves them with two when they once had five. Will they use the allocation money or flip it as a trade asset? –Dan Lauletta

January 13, 2020

Sky Blue FC re-sign Sarah Killion

Insight: Killion has quietly been one of the better (and longest-serving) pieces of Sky Blue FC’s equation. She should be even better in 2020 with some more support around her. This was one of the easier things for Sky Blue FC to do this offseason. — Jeff Kassouf

January 10, 2020

Sky Blue acquire McCall Zerboni from North Carolina Courage for the rights to Hailie Mace

Sky Blue analysis:  Last year, Sky Blue brazenly drafted Mace second overall even though she made it clear she wanted no part of playing for the team. That backfired. Acquiring Zerboni as a consolation was about as good as they could do to salvage anything from moving on Mace in the first place. Zerboni figures to have a lot to prove in 2020 following a season that saw opened with her as a favorite to play at the World Cup and finishing with her out of the starting lineup in North Carolina. I’m guessing that she not only thrives in New Jersey but also helps make Sarah Killion a whole lot better. –Dan Lauletta
Courage analysis:  Mace should prove to be a winning trade for the Courage. Zerboni was out of favor and likely to benefit from a change of scenery. Mace is a quality defender with eyes on the U.S. national team, and the Courage should be able to bring her along at a nice pace. Losing Zerboni will likely be felt most during the Olympics, but Mace is too talented a player for the Courage to not have made this move. –Dan Lauletta

January 9, 2020

Washington Spirit re-sign Andi Sullivan and Aubrey Bledsoe

Insight: Well, duh. Andi Sullivan was quietly one of the best players in the NWSL in 2019, and Aubrey Bledsoe remains arguably the best goalkeeper. These two will be essential to the Spirit maintaining an upward trajectory in 2020. Based on how head coach Richie Burke has been speaking about allocation money, I suspect Sullivan may have received one, but that is unconfirmed at the time. This news comes after a flurry of more obscure signings for the Spirit, who inked midfielder Jaye Boissiere and  defender Brooke Hendrix in the past week. — Jeff Kassouf

January 8, 2020

Portland Thorns FC acquire No. 1 pick in 202 draft from Orlando Pride in exchange for Emily Sonnett, the rights to Caitlin Foord, and the No. 7 and 14 picks in the 2020 draft

Thorns analysis:  This is the second time in five years the Thorns have made a deal to grab the No. 1 overall pick from the Pride. In 2016, they used it on Emily Sonnett. This time, they used Sonnett as part of the package. All indications are the Thorns are going to use this pick on Sophia Smith, a youth national team marvel who is anticipated to leave two years of eligibility at Stanford on the table to play in Portland. Considering Sonnett had a sub-par 2019 and Foord may not even stay in the league, the chance to draft and develop Smith makes this a win for the Thorns. –Dan Lauletta
Pride analysis: Tough to analyze especially if Smith, as believed, is only going to declare for the draft to go to Portland. That makes the value of the top choice far different for the Pride than the Thorns and makes the return difficult to analyze. But there are a lot of ifs that need to go the way of the Pride here. If they make good on the 7th and 14th picks; if Sonnett returns to form as a suitable leader of a back line that was comically bad in 2019; if Foord ever plays for the Pride… –Dan Lauletta

 

Sky Blue FC acquire Midge Purce from Portland Thorns FC in exchange for Raquel Rodriguez

Sky Blue analysis:  The New Jersey side add a speedy, versatile player in exchange for a former No. 2 overall pick who probably has a brighter future elsewhere. Purce, who is a fringe player on the national team scene, has seen time on all three lines during her NWSL career with the Thorns and Breakers before that. In Portland she played some outside back and filled in up top during the World Cup during which time she helped keep the Thorns afloat. She could form a potent, two-sided attack with Imani Dorsey, one of the few players in the league who can match Purce for pace. –Dan Lauletta
Thorns analysis: A bit surprising that the Thorns moved on from Purce, and on face value they are getting the worst of this trade. That said, Rodriguez is immensely talented and at 26 still has a very strong upside. She should also fit well in the Thorns’ midfield where Lindsey Horan is the main cog and Rodriguez should be free to win balls and start the attack but not need to worry about being the creative force in the middle of the park. Purce is a loss but this could be a risk worth taking for a Thorns side that needed to make a few changes after the way 2019 ended. –Dan Lauletta

 

Utah Royals trade Katie Stengel and No. 22 pick in 2020 draft to Houston Dash for natural second-round picks in 2020 and 2021

Dash analysis: Good deal for Houston. They need all the help they can get, and Stengel is a solid contributor who will give them a different look up top. In terms of realistic, in-league targets, this is a pretty good pick-up for Houston. –Jeff Kassouf
Royals analysis:  It’s increasingly difficult to tell what the Royals are trying to do, especially as they go through this period without a permanent coach. Doniak and Stengel have been traded away, Erika Tymrak announced her retirement and Utah has a lot of holes to fill. — Jeff Kassouf

January 7, 2020

Houston Dash re-sign Rachel Daly

Insight: This was an absolutely essential re-signing for Houston. Daly has been the one consistent piece for a Houston team which has been anything but. Sources confirm that allocation money was used for the signing, which would put Daly’s salary over the league maximum of $50,000 per year. — Jeff Kassouf

January 6, 2020

North Carolina Courage acquire No. 6 pick in 2020 draft from Chicago Red Stars in exchange for the No. 9 and No. 18 pick

Courage analysis:  Someone in North Carolina must have their  eye on someone specific that they’re sure to get at No. 6, but who won’t  still be on the board at No. 9. Then again, the Courage can afford to take some gambles like this since their incredible roster depth won’t leave much room for draftees to crack their full-time roster.
Red Stars analysis: The Red Stars maintained an allotment of four first-round picks (at one time they had five) but moved down from  No. 6 to 9 and added No. 18 which they immediately used to help acquire  Kealia Ohai. They still have No. 4 and 5 plus No. 8 so moving down here  doesn’t likely hinder any specific targets they might have. Certainly  worth the price if it helped them close the Ohai deal.. –Dan Lauletta

Chicago Red Stars acquire Kealia Ohai from the Houston Dash in exchange for
Katie Naughton and the No. 18 pick in the 2020 draft

Red Stars analysis:  The Red Stars will be looking to unearth Ohai’s 2016 form when she went on an historic, second-half tear to finish with tied for the league lead in goals with 11. A torn ACL called an early end to her 2017 season and she has not been quite the same since. But the Red Stars have gaps at striker and Ohai was as good as they were going to be able to acquire from within the league. On the other side, Naughton became expendable when Julie Ertz and Tierna  Davidson became the center-back pairing of choice. But they will need to reacquire depth for the Olympic break. The extra pick was mere collateral damage for the right to add Ohai. It was also a pick they did not own at the start of the day. –Dan Lauletta
Dash analysis: Ohai has been the franchise cornerstone since the Dash used their first ever draft pick on her (No. 2 overall) in 2014.  But she recently approached management and asked for a change of scenery. That, coupled with the fact she as played six seasons in Houston with nary a playoff appearance, makes this much less a blow than meets the eye. The issue will be whether they got enough in return. Naughton was once considered among the top uncapped center backs in the league but took a step back last season. If she improves to be the steadying force the Dash have needed at center back since Whitney Engen left, this can be a solid trade for the Dash. The pick is gravy, or could turn into a steal. –Dan Lauletta

December 19, 2019

Chicago Red Stars acquire Makenzy Doniak from Utah Royals FC in exchange for the Red Stars natural second-round pick in 2021

Red Stars analysis: Doniak is a good secondary scoring option who spent much of 2019 working her way back from a torn ACL and buried behind a strong group of Royals forwards. The first in what figures to be a multi-pronged strategy to fill the goal-scoring void left by Sam Kerr. And they’ll likely not miss the draft pick especially with Rory Dames penchant for replenishing picks. –Dan Lauletta
Royals analysis:  Bit of a head-scratcher even if Doniak never had much of a chance to break into the Royals XI. But this is a team that will be under pressure to win now, so a second-round pick a year down the road seems like a waste of a decent trade asset. –Dan Lauletta

December 18, 2019

Washington Spirit sign Kumi Yokoyama

Insight: It’s unclear if allocation money was used for this signing, and either way, it’s an interesting one for the Spirit. The Japanese international will likely be relied on to produce more goals from the run of play for the Spirit. She has a pretty solid resume for Japan at the youth and senior levels, but this feels like one of those signings that’s going to come down to whether or not the fit is right between team and player. This news comes a day after the Spirit announced the signing of Canadian forward Jenna Hellstrom and American forward Jessie Scarpa. — Jeff Kassouf