It's been a whirlwind week for the NWSL's new team. The Orlando Pride were only announced this past Tuesday and already there is a big deal in the works for the team. According to Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, Morgan, as well as Canadian international Kaylyn Kyle, will be traded to the Pride for the team's first pick in the NWSL draft, two international slots, USWNT defender Meghan Klingenberg and forward Lindsey Horan as an allocation, if the American decides to leave Paris Saint-Germain for NWSL.
Over the last few days there has been lots of backlash from the trade, claiming that Orlando is getting the raw end of the deal and that they are "giving away the farm" to get a player who only played in four games for the Portland Thorns last year, due to national team commitments and injuries. While that is true, Orlando is still getting an excellent deal for what they need.
As a new team in a growing market, it's evident that the team wanted to make a splash in the league and bring in a player who could be the face of the franchise. Alex Morgan fits that mold -- a mold that Orlando City used, bringing in Kaká for its first year. In that case, the attendance can speak for itself. There's also the marketing boost the team and city would receive by getting one of the most famous women's soccer players to play in an Orlando jersey. Tickets and jersey sales would be huge for a brand new team, just like Kaká's presence boosted both aspects for the men's team. Kaká finished third in MLS jersey sales this year.
One of the biggest issues that many had in bringing in Morgan was that she has been injured and out of form since 2012, when she scored 28 goals for the USWNT. Since then, Morgan has only scored six national team goals in 2013, five in 2014 and five so far this year. Again, this compares to Kaká with the fact that he was very injury prone coming to Orlando last year and he was out of form, having only scored two goals with Sao Paulo while on loan and having not made a national team appearance in 2014. Being in the right environment and having the right coaches around could help Morgan find that 2012 form again, which would make her easily worth the price Orlando paid for her.
But nobody doubts this makes sense for Orlando from a marketing perspective. What about on the field?
Tom Sermanni, Orlando's new coach, has had experience coaching both Morgan and Kyle on the national team levels. Sermanni coached the USWNT from 2013-2014 and assisted the Canadian women's national team this year at the Women's World Cup. Having someone who is familiar with a player like Morgan, as well as having a coach who has been at the helm of two different national teams (USWNT and Australia from 2005-2012), is extremely beneficial for building a new team, even if they don't have the first pick in the NWSL draft and those two international slots.
Now this is all happening before the team has even been built yet. Morgan and Kyle are the only two players so far, and this isn't even official yet. The Pride still have the Expansion Draft to go through, as well as the league draft, in order to build around their star player. One thing that we have learned from Orlando City's team building process is that they want to build a young team with up and coming players. Despite not making the playoffs this year, the Lions have set themselves up for next year to be a top contender for the Eastern Conference. With GM Paul McDonough in charge of both the Pride and Orlando City, it's not a far jump to assume that he will try building both teams similarly.
Again, all of this still is not 100% official yet. Rumors are that the trade will be made official on Monday, a day after Morgan and her USWNT teammates play at the Citrus Bowl in a friendly against Brazil. There are also rumors about Ashlyn Harris, Florida local and USWNT backup goalkeeper, coming to play for the Pride. In the Expansion Draft, some good players will be left unprotected. According to NWSL Expansion Draft rules, each team may protect up to two U.S. allocated players. As some teams have more than two, that will leave some good players unprotected. Someone like USWNT midfielder Heather O'Reilly could be selected and step right in to help Orlando right away.
There's even rumblings about Ali Kreiger, USWNT defender and BFF's with Ashlyn Harris, coming to Orlando if Harris does indeed make the move down south. So it's quite possible McDonough and Sermanni can build a quality roster around Morgan, which would mean the Pride wouldn't necessarily be mortgaging their future on Morgan.
Needless to say, all those who feel that this trade for Orlando is not worth it should withhold judgement until the team actually has players. All we have right now are rumors. Not facts. When it comes to April of 2016, we will start learning if this blockbuster NWSL trade was indeed worth it for the Pride.