Alex Morgan’s potential move to the Orlando Pride which was first reported by Charles Boehm of Soccerwire over two weeks ago and then analyzed with some detail by us appears to be well in progress per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports. This trade would bring the most marketable and perhaps the second-most recognizable US Women’s National Team (USWNT) player to Central Florida. Jeff Kassouf, the top women’s soccer writer in the country (and a former colleague of mine) has full details of the proposed trade here at Equalizer Soccer.
With well-respected yet controversial former USWNT Manager Tom Sermanni managing the Pride, Morgan will be the centerpiece of the new franchise. Sermanni was sacked by the USWNT and replaced by Jill Ellis after the 2014 Algarve Cup, though rumors since have persisted that clashes with a high-profile player or two led to his demise. But Sermanni is seen as a visionary and someone whose impact both at the club level and with multiple national teams is among the biggest in the women’s soccer world globally.
The USWNT plays in Orlando on Sunday against Brazil and excitement about the Pride is quite high currently. No question that bringing Morgan to Orlando is a winner from a marketing and visibility standpoint. The sell was made easier because her husband Servando Carrasco currently features for Orlando City SC in MLS. Morgan’s presence in Florida will raise the visibility of the women’s game to new heights. When coupled with Florida State University being the reigning NCAA Soccer Champions (and currently ranked #1 in the nation this year) the Pride with Morgan could make the sport very much mainstream in this state. It also worth noting at this point that Morgan is one of the most accessible and thoughtful professional athletes in the world playing any sport. That also helps with the team’s marketing.
However, it can be argued that from a soccer standpoint this is not a net positive trade for the Pride. Per the Equalizer Soccer report, Orlando would send USWNT defensive stalwart Meghan Klingenberg (currently playing for Houston), the first NWSL draft pick for 2016 and the rights to Lindsey Horan arguably the best young American forward who is now playing for PSG in France.
From where I sit, that is an awful lot to give up for a new team trying to build a competitive side. While most know of Morgan’s incredibly effective exploits for the USWNT, in NWSL she has been at times a frustrating player for the Portland Thorns. No doubt she has been one of the better attacking players at times in the league but has failed to consistently duplicate her national team form in soccer-crazed Portland.
Through the course of the last two seasons, Morgan has battled injuries while players like Jessica McDonald and Allie Long have occasionally upstaged her goal scoring exploits with the Thorns. Morgan has always appeared to be fresh and effective for the USWNT but at times hasn’t seemed as committed to the Thorns. Perhaps that is an unfair critique, but one I have multiple people who follow the Thorns make.
At the league level, Morgan’s USWNT teammate Amy Rodriguez has emerged as the standout striker in NWSL, and several others have had a more consistent impact than Morgan. The Thorns hiring of Mark Parsons to manage the team might have ushered out Morgan, as the well-regarded manager is likely to want a clean . It is interesting to note how much Orlando is giving up to acquire Morgan. Portland would not make this trade unless it made real soccer sense, which from my vantage point it does for them. In Klingenberg they get a dynamite defender and the potential of getting Horan will likely offset losing Morgan.
But for Orlando, perhaps the change of scenery and getting away from the soccer-savvy but hyper-critical Portland fan base might help Morgan. The reunion with Sermanni should help as well. So while Portland will definitely benefit from this deal, it is clear Orlando will from a marketing standpoint and just might from a soccer perspective – though that last piece will not be determined until next summer for sure.
Photo: “Alex Morgan 2013-05-04 Spirit – Thorns-109 (8964376243)” by Erica McCaulley – 2013-05-04 Spirit – Thorns-109. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alex_Morgan_2013-05-04_Spirit_-_Thorns-109_(8964376243).jpg#/media/File:Alex_Morgan_2013-05-04_Spirit_-_Thorns-109_(8964376243).jpg