After a shocking last minute collapse in the Championship Game of the NWSL which led to the Washington Spirit losing in penalty kicks, the Spirit have delivered another shock to the systems of their fan base. The Spirit announced today that the club has agreed to trade their captain Ali Krieger to the Orlando Pride.
In return, the Spirit swapped Distribution Ranking Order places with the Pride, moving the 2016 NWSL Championship Finalists into second position overall on the coveted list, while the Pride now owns the ninth spot. As a result, the Spirit will only have the Boston Breakers ahead of them in selecting any distribution-eligible individuals whose salaries would be funded by their home Federations. The trade is the first major player transaction of the National Women’s Soccer League offseason.
“On behalf of the entire Washington Spirit organization, past and present, I would like to thank Ali for her extreme commitment and leadership over these four years,” said Spirit Owner Bill Lynch. “She has played a major role in our efforts to build a strong foundation for the future. We wish her well both on and off the field.”
The Washington area native and fan favorite has spent all four seasons of NWSL existence on her hometown team and just wrapped up her best season yet, falling just seconds shy of winning an NWSL Championship in October. Krieger, 32, the 2015 FIFA World Cup Champion has made 63 regular season and three playoff appearances for Washington.
Krieger’s commitment to the NWSL and Spirit never shone brighter than 2016, when she was the first player to return to her club following the U.S. Women’s National Team’s early exit from the Rio Olympics, flying in to meet up with the team in Houston and helping notch a win that kept the Spirit in the NWSL Shield race and eventually clinched a first ever home playoff match.
However, Krieger angered some fans the season before opting to skip the team’s semi-final playoff game to attend the second wedding of her father. It’s unclear whether Krieger requested a trade or the team unilaterally made the decision. The Washington Post is reporting that many players on the Spirit team had become unhappy with the organization after Spirit owner, Bill Lynch prevented visiting Megan Rapinoe from kneeling during the national anthem in September. Krieger reported led an effort by the players to issue a statement expressing the players’ unhappiness with the owner and the organization.
Krieger often proved her versatility by playing midfield and occasionally as a central defender over her NWSL career. Despite the defensive role, she also excelled in attacking on the flanks, and notched four goals while in a Spirit kit, including a goal of the week winner in week two of the most recent season and a critical playoff goal against the Chicago Red Stars earlier this month.
Prior to joining the Spirit in the inaugural year, Krieger played five years in Germany for 1. FFC Frankfurt, winning the UEFA Champions League in 2008. She played for local club Prince William Soccer, Inc. (PWSI) as a youth, before attending Penn State, earning All-American honors twice, among many other collegiate awards.