During the first round of the NWSL's 2020 draft on Thursday, Sky Blue FC sent a haul of draft picks to the Washington Spirit in exchange for a player to be named later. As it turns out, it's a pretty big name.
The Spirit have sent USWNT winger Mallory Pugh to Sky Blue in the deal for the fourth overall draft pick and two second-round picks in Thursday's event and a first-round pick in 2021. The fourth overall pick wound up being UCLA and U.S. youth national team forward Ashley Sanchez, an addition that perhaps made Pugh expendable. The Spirit also recently signed Japanese forward Kumi Yokoyama and boast Ashley Hatch, who scored seven goals last season.
Pugh's talent has never been in question, but production perhaps hasn't matched expectations for the 21-year-old forward, who burst onto the national team scene four years ago with a goal on her first cap. While she's remained a regular call-up for the national team, she hasn't yet unseated the likes of veterans Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press for starter's minutes on the wing. While battling various health problems in recent seasons and also missing time for international duty, she has 10 goals in three years in NWSL, following up six in her rookie year with two apiece in 2018 and 2019.
Sky Blue is banking on her finding her top form playing alongside the likes of Carli Lloyd and the recently acquired Midge Purce as a three-headed attacking attraction at Red Bull Arena.
The Spirit, meanwhile, will hope Sanchez can make an instant impact as part of a U.S. trio that features two previous No. 1 draft picks in Rose Lavelle (2017) and Andi Sullivan (2018).
Pugh becomes the second member of the U.S. women's national team's World Cup–winning side to be traded this offseason, with defender Emily Sonnett going from Portland to Orlando in exchange for the top overall pick in the 2020 draft. That wound up being Stanford star and U.S. youth national team forward Sophia Smith.
Pugh, who has 18 goals in 62 international caps, is currently in U.S. women's national team camp in preparation for Olympic qualifiers, which begin Jan. 28.