During her tenure as the head coach and general manager of the Seattle Reign, Laura Harvey has developed a reputation that is about as close to "revered" as anyone in the game. When she makes a move that seems a little odd on its surface, observers are searching for the angle they might have missed. But even Harvey's biggest fans have been left scratching their heads over her latest move: Trading USWNT star forward Sydney Leroux without even getting someone who is an obvious starter, let alone a seeming upgrade.
Explaining this trade to anyone who's not a diehard woso fan is going to be a challenge, but let's see if we can't help:
Remind me who was traded.
The Reign sent Leroux and last year's first-round draft pick Amanda Frisbie to Western New York Flash in exchange for Amber Brooks, a first-round pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft and the rights to Abby Wambach.
Whoa, they got Wambach? Isn't she awesome?
While it's true that Wambach is the top scorer in international soccer history (178 goals) and coming off two NWSL seasons in which she scored 17 goals in 29 games, she's very much an afterthought in this trade. Even before the trade, the 34-year-old had announced her intentions to skip this NWSL season in order to focus on this summer's World Cup. The Reign have said they don't expect her to suit up this year, and the reality is she might never play for them. It's expected that the Reign will get some kind of salary-cap relief if Wambach doesn't play.
Oh, that's a bummer. What about the other parts of the trade?
Brooks is the key player from the Reign's standpoint, to be sure. She's spent parts of the last three seasons with Bayern Munich's women's team where she's scored nine goals in just 27 games. She also started 20 games with the Portland Thorns last year and has started getting called into the national team.
That sounds good.
Yeah, she's no slouch. But she's a defensive midfielder and the Reign are pretty set there. It's possible that Brooks will break into the starting lineup, but that's hardly guaranteed. There's also been some talk of her moving to center back.
The final bit of the trade was Frisbie and the Flash's draft pick. Frisbie was a promising collegian, but missed all of 2014 with an injury. Although she's fully recovered, swapping her for another first-round pick seems fair enough.
Wasn't Leroux, like, a megastar, though? This doesn't seem like fair value.
In the world of women's soccer -- heck, all of women's sports -- there aren't many people more recognizable than Leroux. She's been featured in all sorts of magazines, she's prominently featured in Nike ads, she married Sporting KC start Dom Dwyer and -- it should absolutely be noted -- she's scored about once every other game for the USWNT. Leroux is the kind of player around whom you build your season-ticket drive.
Why would the Reign trade her?
It should also be said that Leroux scored five goals in 22 games for the Reign last year despite leading the team in shots taken. That's not the end of the world or anything, but she admitted to requesting a trade this offseason to FC Kansas City in order to get her closer to her new husband. That's the same FCKC that beat the Reign in last year's NWSL title game.
Why is she in Western New York then?
The Reign tried to work out a deal with FCKC, but apparently were far apart. The Flash, suddenly in need of a forward after Wambach somewhat surprisingly called off her season, offered the best package.
It sounded like Leroux would have preferred to stay in Seattle if she couldn't go to KC, couldn't the Reign have just kept her?
The Reign, even off the record, don't dispute Leroux's version of events. Leroux apparently WAS happy to stay in Seattle if she couldn't go to KC. This is where her mom lives, after all. But it sounds like the damage was already pretty much done. The Reign didn't seem to think Leroux was 100 percent committed to them -- and that's hard to dispute since she requested a trade -- and felt it was important to have everyone equally committed to the cause.
Is that why Leroux called the Reign "unprofessional"?
Presumably, and maybe she felt she had received assurances that the Reign wouldn't trade her anywhere but KC.
Don't players make trade requests all the time and still manage to produce for their current teams?
They do, and this is where your faith in Harvey is going to be tested. Harvey seems to have created an environment in Seattle where players want to be. Does that change if there's a player there who her teammates know would rather be somewhere else? That's hard to say.
Did this trade make the Reign better?
It would be hard to see how it does, even if Brooks ends up getting significant minutes and Wambach ends up playing for the Reign at some point. For all her struggles, Leroux is a massive talent and last year's team was among the greatest women's teams ever assembled. Getting better probably wasn't realistic.
Does this trade make the Reign worse?
That might be the more appropriate question. Beverly Yanez (Goebel) actually matched Leroux's production last year in about 300 fewer minutes and probably slots in as the team's center forward now. Leroux was going to miss a chunk of the season for the World Cup anyway and now the Reign at least know what they have. This move could totally blow up in their face, for sure, but there's reason to think it can work.