The precise details of how last week's surprise trade of Sydney Leroux to Western New York came about are not (and likely never will be) public, leaving only the temptation to slip into convenient narratives about who was the victim and who was aggrieved.
From one — more Reign-friendly — perspective, the USWNT striker shocked the team with a request to be traded to Kansas City, where her new husband Dom Dwyer plays. It was (by all accounts) the second time in two years that Leroux has maneuvered her way off of a team, and so close to the start of the season it left the team scrambling to find value for a player who didn't want to be here. Ultimately, FCKC — perhaps knowing that they had leverage — didn't offer enough and Seattle moved her to New York for Wambach player rights (which it's possible will never amount to anything other than some salary cap relief), a good player at a position where they're already incredibly deep, and a draft pick.
From another perspective, perhaps best encapsulated in this Laura Vecsey piece for Fox Soccer, Leroux is a victim of a heartless system that has her uprooting her whole life with barely any notice and moving 3,000 miles away (and no nearer to her husband) because the team overreacted to an inquiry about the possibility of a trade.
Leroux herself, unsurprisingly, leans towards the latter interpretation. In this video interview she describes her treatment as 'unprofessional' and is clearly motivated heading into the season opener this weekend, when she'll travel back across the country to face the team she was playing for last week.
There are certainly bones to pick with Vecsey's version of the narrative. Her implication is that the entire situation was 'triggered' by Wambach's refusal to play, forcing WNY to move her. It's a tidy way to talk more about the USWNT angle of the deal (and let's be honest, all that the non-soccer media cares about in NWSL is the USWNT players), but it ignores the fact that of the four moving pieces in the deal, Wambach's rights likely matter the least. And she doesn't mention that Leroux brought up a trade first, which seems like an important detail.
But all that aside, it's never wrong to question a rights system that can cast players across the country on short notice without their consent. We've become used to it as fans of American sports, given their very troubling history with player rights. The idea that a player could be forced to move anywhere in the country with no notice and that their only alternative is to quit playing isn't just accepted, it's celebrated. Trade deadline day is one of the most anticipated events of the season in baseball. And those are all millionaires. NWSL players getting traded are often at or near minimum wage.
That's not the case with Leroux. She has the financial wherewithal and the earning power to justify making that move. But she still occupies a complicated place at the intersection of worker freedom and the growth of the league. And the question of whether she's a victim or an instigator, if it even needs to be answered, isn't any less complicated.
Regardless, her perspective is pretty obvious. I'd expect her to come into Sunday's match well motivated.