Portland, Oregon — Becky Sauerbrunn is heading to the Pacific Northwest. In a move first reported by The Equalizer, the Portland Thorns have officially announced Sauerbrunn’s arrival.
The trade also involved Elizabeth Ball heading to the Royals. It fills some much needed space on defense, as Becca Moros was waived. Also leaving the Royals were Mandy Laddish and Sydney Miramontez, who announced their retirements this offseason. Meanwhile, heading to the Royals is $100,000 in allocation money.
“We appreciate Utah being amicable to this trade in helping fulfill the wishes of Becky and her desire to come to Portland,” Gavin Wilkinson, general manager of the Thorns, said. “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 has been a professional since 2009, when she was selected by the Washington Freedom in the former WPS. She also featured for magicJack in 2011. Sauerbrunn’s career also saw her perform with D.C. United Women before the NWSL’s creation.
Once the league created in 2013, Sauerbrunn joined FC Kansas City and now-current USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski. Sauerbrunn remained with the club until its folding in 2017. In Kansas City, she won two back-to-back NWSL Championships in 2014 and 2015. Furthermore, Sauerbrunn also won the NWSL Defender of the Year title from 2013-15.
Nominated for the U.S. women’s national team Athlete of the Year once, Sauerbrunn has two Women’s World Cup titles with the United States. She also was part of the USWNT Olympic gold medal team in 2012.
Mark Parsons, Thorns FC head coach, said that Sauerbrunn has “exceptional” technical ability and tactical intelligence.
“She is a true professional with a strong work ethic and has a team-first mentality in all areas that will elevate those around her,” Parsons said.
— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) March 3, 2020
Analysis of the Sauerbrunn trade
- Right here, right now: Sauerbrunn is a huge name in soccer and a widely talented player. She’s still got all the moves that she had in her younger days. It is evident that time is a factor for players, though. Sauerbrunn is 34. Her last major tournament with the USWNT could very well be these upcoming Olympics. How many more years will she compete? Christie Rampone did it in her 40s. Either way, right now, she fixes defensive issues for Portland.
- Don’t sleep on Ball: Elizabeth Ball is a great story for the NWSL. She went undrafted in the 2018 NWSL draft and Portland took a gamble on her. Parsons liked what he saw from the Penn State defender, which led to her signing. In two seasons, Ball made an impact with the Thorns, starting 13 of her 20 appearances. She featured in 1,189 minutes of regular-season action. Don’t sleep on her in Utah. She could very well become an immediate starter.
- International names in the Rose City: Portland did a lot of shopping this winter. In addition to Sauerbrunn, the club also brought along Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez from Sky Blue FC. The Costa Rican international is one of women’s soccer’s brightest young talents. She’s been referred to as the next big thing in Costa Rica, following Shirley Cruz’ footsteps. Jelling all of these international players — Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan are in Portland, too — together will be fun to watch.
— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) March 3, 2020
Sauerbrunn: “This has been different”
Speaking with the Thorns official website, Sauerbrunn said that the spotlight has been different for her. An under-the-radar type of player, Sauerbrunn even called all the attention “uncomfortable.”
Sauerbrunn has a home in Portland, splitting her time between Utah and the Rose City. For her, the move wasn’t about anyone in the Royals organization or any indication of lack of soccer culture there. Instead, she wanted to combine her personal and professional lives.
This was about, for me, what life would be like at home and off the field,” she said.
“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,” she continued. “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.”
Sauerbrunn said that she has plenty of support from the Royals.
“I’ve been so encouraged by the support,” Sauerbrunn said. “All the people at Utah, my teammates. Everybody has been really understanding … [they’ve been] really supportive.”
Meanwhile, new Royals head coach Craig Harrington is excited about his new defensive player in Ball. “Elizabeth offers us real defending adaptability and options,” Harrington said. “She has shown in the past that she can play a variety of positions and her versatility allows us to be flexible to a lot of formations.”
Portland Thorns key schedule dates
- April 18 vs. Utah Royals FC; Home opener, Sauerbrunn faces old team.
- April 29 vs. North Carolina Courage; NWSL Final (2018) rematch.
- May 16, June 12, Aug. 29 vs. Reign FC; rivalry matches.
- Oct. 18 vs. Utah Royals FC; end of the regular-season.