Spirit trades USWNT defender Emily Sonnett for picks at NWSL draft


PHILADELPHIA — With only two picks entering Thursday night’s National Women’s Soccer League draft, the Washington Spirit was quiet for the opening rounds of the proceedings. When the Spirit finally moved, it was a blockbuster — and it involved a player not even on the draft stage at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The Spirit traded U.S. national team defender Emily Sonnett to OL Reign for a third-round pick Thursday and a first-round pick in 2024. Sonnett had spent the past two seasons in Washington, winning a title with the team in 2021.

New Spirit coach Mark Parsons said the trade came about as the team sought to rebalance its roster ahead of the World Cup, which will take national team players such as Sonnett away from their club sides for an extended period this summer.

“The timing could be better. … but what we knew and felt from OL Reign was they really believed and were invested in this, and they were going to give Emily the opportunity she deserves,” he said. “We have some big needs in other areas, and we’re working very successfully on other areas in the back line that we [need to] fill.”

The Spirit had no natural picks until the third round of the draft. With its first selection at No. 26, Washington chose Arizona State forward Nicole Douglas, a London native who scored 60 goals across five years for the Sun Devils and has made appearances for England’s youth national teams.

“I’m hoping I can bring that attacking ability, my dribbling skills and obviously scoring goals,” Douglas said. “I just hope that I can achieve as much as I did in college and help the Washington Spirit as much as possible.”

After that selection, the Spirit fired off a series of trades, finishing the third round by acquiring three picks for cash and draft spots. The Spirit added Gonzaga goalkeeper Lyza Bosselman, Alabama forward/midfielder Riley Tanner and Long Beach State forward Lena Silano through those trades. Fourth-rounders Civana Kuhlmann (Colorado) and Delaney Graham (Duke) rounded out the team’s selections.

Alyssa Thompson, an 18-year-old forward who debuted for the U.S. women’s national team in October, was selected first overall by Angel City FC. The California native is the youngest player to be drafted in NWSL history, surpassing Spirit forward Trinity Rodman in 2021.

The Kansas City Current drafted Duke forward Michelle Cooper with the second pick, which it acquired in a draft-night trade that sent U.S. national team forward Lynn Williams to NJ/NY Gotham FC. Cooper won the MAC Hermann Trophy as the top player in women’s college soccer this month.

University of Virginia forwards Alexa Spaanstra and Haley Hopkins were selected with the 10th and 11th picks, respectively, by the Current and the North Carolina Courage. Florida State midfielder Clara Robbins (Colonial Forge High) went to the North Carolina Courage with the ninth pick.

The Current also added two Virginia natives in the second round: South County grad Gabrielle Robinson (West Virginia) and former Woodson goalkeeper Jordan Silkowitz (Iowa State).

After a 3-9-10 record and an 11th-place finish in 2022, Washington is retooling its roster under Parsons, who was hired in November, and General Manager Mark Krikorian, the former Florida State coach named head of soccer operations in June.

Since November, the Spirit has re-signed midfielder Marissa Sheva, longtime co-captain Tori Huster, defenders Camryn Biegalski and Amber Brooks, and veteran goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart. Defenders Kelley O’Hara (Gotham FC) and Julia Roddar (Sweden’s Hammarby) both departed the club.

In December, Washington signed defender Gabby Carle on a multiyear deal. Carle, who spent last season at Swedish club Kristianstads, won a national championship at Florida State under Krikorian in 2018 and has made 35 appearances for the Canadian national team.

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