As the Washington Spirit prepare for the 2018 Draft later this week, the team has made some major moves this week, including trading USWNT superstar Crystal Dunn to the North Carolina Courage.
Dunn did not play for the Spirit last season, opting instead to play for Chelsea Ladies in Europe following the Spirit’s 2016 season.
Spirit have acquired U.S. Women’s National Team defender Taylor Smith and 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year forward Ashley Hatch from the North Carolina Courage in exchange an international roster spot and the NWSL rights to Dunn.
The Spirit has also acquired the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft from the Houston Dash in exchange for forward/defender Lindsay Agnew and the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s draft.
This deal gives the Spirit the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Washington now holds two of the top three selections in the first round. Washington previously acquired the No. 6 pick in a trade with the Chicago Red Stars.
The trade with North Carolina is significant. Smith and Hatch, who have each played their way into the U.S. Women’s National Team player pool in recent years, both had integral roles in helping the Courage capture the 2017 NWSL Shield and advance to the NWSL Championship Final.
Smith led a Courage defense which limited opponents to less than a goal per game, and earned her first seven international camps with the U.S. during 2017.
“Taylor has developed into one of the best right backs in the NWSL,” said Spirit Head Coach and General Manager Jim Gabarra. “She has performed very well both with the national team and the Courage, and has been part of winning teams her entire career. She will be a difference maker for us.”
Hatch, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL Draft, led all rookies with seven goals scored, including three game-winners, over the course of 24 appearances.
“Ashley had tremendous success in her rookie season and it is rare that any player achieves what she did in their first season in the NWSL,” Gabarra said. “Her natural ability to score goals is something all teams search for. Taylor and Ashley are not only top players, they are both quality people and we are elated to have them join our club.”
Smith, a 24-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, represented the U.S. at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels before earning her first call-up to the senior team in 2017. She played collegiately at UCLA from 2012-2015, and helped the Bruins capture their first-ever NCAA College Cup title in 2013. She made 18 appearances and scored two goals during her rookie NWSL season in 2016 for the league champion Western New York Flash.
Hatch, a 22-year-old from San Dimas, California, played college soccer at Brigham Young University, where she scored 47 goals in her 75-game career from 2013-2016. She made her debut with the senior U.S. national team at the age of 21 in October 2016 in a friendly against Switzerland.
The Spirit selected Agnew with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, out of Ohio State University. She played in eight games during her rookie season with the Spirit, recording the first assist of her pro career on September 10 in a 2-1 road win over Sky Blue FC.
“We want to thank Lindsay for all she did for the Spirit,” said Spirit Head Coach and General Manager Jim Gabarra. “We are happy for her with this new opportunity in Houston and wish her good luck.”
Crystal Dunn will be missed by Spirit fans. She is a dynamo on the field and can create scoring chances out of nothing. She scored 19 goals in 58 appearances for the Spirit over the course of the 2014-2016 NWSL seasons, including both tallies in the 2016 NWSL Championship game between these same two teams. With the Courage, she would return to the state of North Carolina, where she stared at UNC Chapel Hill from 2010-2013.
“Crystal’s contributions to the Spirit have been massive,” Gabarra said. “She is the definition of an impact player in the NWSL. We thank Crystal for all she has done for our club and wish her good luck in North Carolina.”
The National Women’s Soccer League will live stream the 2018 NWSL College Draft via Facebook, YouTube, NWSLsoccer.com and NWSL app on Thursday, Jan. 18, from the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia.
NWSL teams will take turns picking the best of the draft eligible talent over four rounds beginning at 10:00 am. Fans can watch the draft live by visiting: Facebook.com/NWSL, YouTube.com/NWSL and NWSLsoccer.com/CollegeDraft.
The Spirit will also make a preseason return to Evergreen Sportsplex in Leesburg, Va. on March 10 for a friendly against 22-time women’s college champion University of North Carolina. The 2018 NWSL regular season kicks off March 24 and runs through September, with each of the 10 teams playing 24 regular season games.
Top: Crystal Dunn (19) with the Washington Spirit during the 2016 season. She has been traded to the North Carolina Courage.
Next: Newly acquired by the Spirit is Taylor Smith (11) playing at the Maryland SoccerPlex with the North Carolina Courage during the 2017 season.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.