Just over one day after the Orlando Pride became the 10th team to join NWSL, Grant Wahl reported that they'd landed one of the league's biggest stars. They're adding USWNT star Alex Morgan, along with Canadian international midfielder Kaylyn Kyle, and they've had to pay a king's ransom to get Morgan. In exchange, Portland Thorns FC will receive USWNT defender Meghan Klingenberg, the first overall pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft, two international slots and the rights to 21-year-old USWNT striker Lindsey Horan, currently with Paris Saint-Germain.
There are a lot of elements to this deal, and ultimately, it's really good for everyone.
Orlando Pride wouldn't exist without this trade
During the NWSL championship game a few weeks ago, Commissioner Jeff Plush refused to confirm or deny that the league was expanding for 2016, and now we know why. The ability to acquire Morgan was a big factor in Orlando choosing to enter the league this year instead of waiting for next year, according to The Equalizer. Because they were able to pull this off, they're going to launch with arguably the USWNT's most recognizable star as the face of their club.
From a pure soccer perspective, this is a robbery
If NWSL were a league where big names were less important than winning games for a team's bottom line, this trade would be absurd, to the point where a league office might reject it on suspicion of a front office purposely not acting in the best interest of their club. This is a very, very bad soccer trade for Orlando Pride.
Morgan hardly played last season due to national team commitments and injuries, finishing the year with one goal and two assists in four appearances. In 2014, she scored six goals, fourth on her team. She did better in 2013, scoring eight goals, good for joint-first on her team and joint-fourth in the league. She also only scored six national team goals in 2013, five in 2014 and five so far in 2015. She scored 28 in 2012, when NWSL didn't exist. Morgan's still getting the benefit of the doubt for posting the best year in national team history, but she hasn't been a superstar since then. She had a decent 2013, then was very average (mostly due to injuries) over the next two years.
On the basis of value to their team on the pitch, Klingenberg for Morgan straight up would be a fair trade. Kyle for an international slot, plus perhaps a squad player or lower pick, would be a fair trade. Portland's getting an extra international slot too, and on top of that, they're getting the top two young prospects in the league with the No. 1 overall pick and Horan's rights. In NWSL, rookies tend to have an influence on a team faster than they do in men's sports.
Basically, Portland swapped two solid starters, one of whom could regain form and become an attacking superstar, for five solid starters, four of which could potentially be attacking superstars.
But Orlando needs a star more than a great team
We all dream of a world where NWSL attendance directly correlates to team performance, but that isn't the world we live in right now. A brand new women's soccer team needs a recognizable face for the franchise to get a few thousand people in the door, and you can't do better than Morgan.
There are a few other players on Morgan's level, but not many. Carli Lloyd has ascended to Morgan's level of superstardom with her performance in the World Cup, but the Houston Dash probably have zero interest in trading her. The same goes for Megan Rapinoe, who is very unlikely to leave the Seattle Reign anytime soon. Abby Wambach didn't play in NWSL last season. Hope Solo has recently been suspended from the national team, is currently dealing with legal issues, and would probably be very upset about being traded away from Seattle. Sydney Leroux is in even worse form than Morgan. After those players, there's a drop-off in name recognition and drawing power.
Orlando felt like they had to get one of those superstars, and they paid the very steep asking price to get the best one that was available.
Portland doesn't need Morgan
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More from our team sites
Star power or not, Portland is going to lead NWSL in attendance. You've probably read about their awesome fans. They don't care about name recognition, but winning. Portland didn't win this season. Trading Morgan isn't going to cause their attendance to dwindle, but failing to make the playoffs for a second year in a row might. Getting rid of her when her value was still very high and pulling in a massive haul was just as good of a marketing move as a soccer move for the Thorns. Their primary objective -- and the best way they can sell tickets -- is to have the best team in the league.
Yes, Alex Morgan's husband was a factor here
If you're one of the thousands of people who have arrived at this website over the last five years by googling "Alex Morgan boyfriend/husband," congratulations! This is the section for you.
For the uninitiated, Alex Morgan is married to Orlando City midfielder Servando Carrasco. At various points in her career, Morgan has been linked to existing or hypothetical women's teams in Seattle, Houston, Kansas City and now Orlando, depending on where her husband was playing at the time. Morgan requested to be traded to Orlando so she could play in the same city as him, and Portland only granted her trade request because she asked to leave for personal reasons, not soccer ones.
Since the Pride are owned by the same people as City, it would be really awkward and lame if they went through this whole charade only to cut or trade Carrasco at the end of the season. Alex and Servando will be hoping that contract extension gets finalized soon.
Kling's about to be on four teams in a winter
There's a weird wrinkle in this trade -- Klingenberg doesn't play for Orlando, so they can't actually trade her. Houston is going to send her to Seattle as part of some kind of package, because trades are the only thing that satiates Reign coach Laura Harvey. Seattle is going to leave Klingenberg unprotected in the expansion draft and Orlando's going to take her. Then Orlando's going to send her to Portland.
Everybody's a winner!
Orlando gets their franchise centerpiece. Morgan's request to go live with her husband was granted. Portland becomes a much better soccer team. Houston gets something nominal for Kling instead of losing her for nothing. Harvey gets to be part of a blockbuster trade. It's a mess of a trade, but one that works out for absolutely everyone.