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Portland Thorns Trade Sonnett in Deal for No. 1 Pick in Draft, Capping Hectic Stretch in NWSL

The NWSL offseason is prone to wild, blockbuster trades. There was the unforgettable three-team swap in 2018 that included Carli Lloyd, Sam Kerr and Christen Press. Before that, the Portland Thorns sent Alex Morgan and Kaylyn Kyle to the Orlando Pride for the top pick in the 2016 draft (USWNT defender Emily Sonnett) and other assets that turned into Meghan Klingenberg and Lindsey Horan. There was the Abby Wambach-for-Sydney Leroux trade in 2015. Suffice it to say there's little that should shock fans at this point when it comes to stars changing addresses in the winter months.

The latest instance took place Wednesday, with the Portland Thorns sending Sonnett, coincidentally, to Orlando as part of a deal that gives the Thorns the first overall selection in the Jan. 16 draft in Baltimore. The Thorns also sent the Pride the rights to Australian striker Caitlin Foord along with the seventh and 14th picks in the draft.

According to The Equalizer, Portland is expected to take Stanford star Sophia Smith, who has yet to declare for the draft but is expected to make herself available now that the Thorns have the first pick. Smith, 19, was recently part of U.S. women's national team manager Vlatko Andonovski's talent identification camp and scored 23 goals in 27 games with the U.S. U-20s.

“Coming into the offseason we knew we would have to make several bold moves that strengthen the team with the objective of getting back to the NWSL Final,” Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson said in a statement. “Acquiring the first pick in the draft was essential for us and we believe the player we select will not only help in the short term, but will be someone that will grow with the club and become a fixture in this team for years to come.”

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The Thorns, in a separate significant deal, are reportedly sending Midge Purce and a first round pick in the 2021 draw to Sky Blue FC in exchange for Raquel Rodriguez, according to The Athletic. The rights to former UCLA standout Hailie Mace, who elected to play in Sweden over Sky Blue last year, may also be in play in a separate deal, according to The Washington Post.

The Thorns' pre-draft whirlwind caps a hectic few days in NWSL, which extends to the league's front office. President Amanda Duffy stepped down for a VP role with Orlando in the aftermath of a significant deal between the Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars.

The Dash sent striker Kealia Ohai to Chicago for defender Katie Naughton and the 18th overall pick in the 2020 draft. That pick was among two Chicago had netted from the reigning champion NC Courage, along with the ninth overall pick in exchange for the sixth overall selection. 

Ohai's trade came as a surprise given her lengthy career with the Dash and her connections to the Houston area–her fiance, J.J. Watt, was none too pleased with how a certain local media outlet framed the trade–but she requested it in an effort to get a fresh start. Considering the regular state of NWSL offseasons, perhaps no trade involving any big names should come as a surprise anymore.