First of all, how’s everyone doing? Surprised? Disbelief? Sadness? Disappointment? I think all are valid when we talk about Becky Sauerbrunn going to Portland. I, too, felt them all when I first heard the news. And I wish I had a magic wand that would stop the trade, but it’s coming. Even though much of what has been reported is unofficial because the league still has yet to approve the trade, it’s inevitable. Becky Sauerbrunn is going to be a Portland Thorn. So let’s talk about it.
What we know
The Equalizer was first to report the news based upon multiple sources that Royals FC are set to trade Becky Sauerbrunn to Portland, an agreement reached by both clubs. In return, Utah would get allocation money and the rights to a player. Utah could also cash in more allocation money from Portland as long as Sauerbrunn remains an active player.
But why Portland?
Portland, Oregon is actually where Becky resides in the off-season with her significant other, and she has for many years. If anything, we should be surprised that it took this long for her to play in the city she lives. But Becky Sauerbrunn is an incredible loyal player. She stuck it out in Kansas City because of Vlatko Andonovski, and when FC Kansas City folded, she could have easily played in Portland, but she was persuaded to come to Utah under Laura Harvey.
With Harvey now gone, and Utah’s shift on youth development and attack-minded style of play under the new Craig Harrington era, the time was now, which takes us to our next point.
But why now?
It’s really all about timing. Becky Sauerbrunn may very well retire soon, whether it’s this year or the next. And if she retires this year, and the U.S. National Team wins gold at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Sauerbrunn will end her career on a high note like many great U.S. players before her.
Also, let’s be real, though, if this trade is happening, it’s because it was likely player-requested. There’s no way Utah trades Becky, but they didn’t have much choice, which shows the power of a federation player. Not all always get their way (thinks Christen Press), but many times they do (think Alex Morgan to Orlando to play near her husband, Kelley O’Hara to Utah, Carli Lloyd to New Jersey to be close to her husband and her home).
Becky probably requested to play her last season(s) near her home, in Portland, and that is okay because Becky Sauerbrunn deserves that, even if it is with the Thorns.
This was probably the best timing for Utah as well. With allocation money introduced this season as a trading factor, the club now has more leverage in trading federation players. That allocation money will be used to potentially sign an international player, and URFC could not get a federation player in return, allocation money is the next best thing.
What it means for Utah?
No doubt, this will cause URFC to adjust without Sauerbrunn and her leadership. We’ve been used to seeing the team adjust to her absence because of Sauerbrunn’s national team duty, but this is definitely different. Once what felt like a strong backline with Sauerbrunn as the anchor, now looks depleted, and apart from veterans Rachel Corsie, Kelley O’Hara, and Katie Bowen, very young with players like Michelle Maemone, Madeline Nolf, and Gaby Vincent.
But if Utah is all about player development, there’s no time like the present. We can expect for Gaby Vincent to line up next to Corsie, which is an opportunity to learn from the veteran and fill the void.
We wait and see.