The Portland Thorns' busy offseason continues.
The Thorns have acquired U.S. women's national team stalwart center back Becky Sauerbrunn from the Utah Royals in exchange for Elizabeth Ball and $100,000 in allocation money, the club announced on Tuesday.
The trade follows a series of moves that has seen the Thorns offload U.S. defender Emily Sonnett to Orlando, take rising U.S. star Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver 1-2 in the NWSL draft after trading up for both picks and perhaps leave room for more.
Most importantly, it gives the Thorns a center back anchor in their quest to dethrone the North Carolina Courage and return to the NWSL summit. For Sauerbrunn, it gives her a chance to go home. She's lived in Portland the last five years despite playing for the Royals and now-defunct FC Kansas City, and at 34 had a desire to play where she lived.
“As a player, I’ve lived my life in two parts, where my life with my team has been away from where I was [otherwise] lived,” Sauerbrunn told the club's official website. “Going to Portland at this point in my career, having lived there for five years, that changes. This move allows me to play at home.”
Added Thorns general manager Gavin Wilkinson: “We appreciate Utah being amicable to this trade in helping fulfill the wishes of Becky and her desire to come to Portland. Becky will give us tremendous experience and leadership at the back. Her addition to a group of players with championship capabilities and aspirations is exciting on all levels.”
Sauerbrunn is a four-time NWSL Defender of the Year, two-time NWSL champion, two-time Women's World Cup champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, and her departure is another big one for Utah, which lost manager Laura Harvey to the U.S. Under-20 women's national team.
Sauerbrunn was the first player Utah signed after becoming a franchise following FCKC's demise, and she said that before signing with the club, she discussed this scenario potentially unfolding down the line.
In a video farewell to Utah fans, Sauerbrunn said: "I'm at that point in my career where I want to be home, and true to their word, Utah supported me in making that happen. I would like to personally thank Utah GM Stephanie Lee for honoring that agreement."
Sauerbrunn is the latest USWNT player to be on the move this offseason, with Mal Pugh, Midge Purce and McCall Zerboni landing with Sky Blue and Sonnett heading to Orlando. Sauerbrunn, Pugh and Sonnett are part of the USWNT group preparing for the SheBelieves Cup, which kicks off on Thursday. The U.S. will play England, Japan and Spain in the four-team tournament.