The Orlando Pride have dealt defender Ali Krieger and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to NJ/NY Gotham FC, completing a move that was first reported by Meg Linehan of The Athletic ($) last week. In return, the Pride have received a 2022 NWSL Draft first-round selection, a 2023 NWSL Draft natural third-round pick and $50,000 in Allocation Money. The 2022 pick is the one that Gotham received from the Chicago Red Stars in a previous trade, with the pick number to be officially locked in at 8 p.m. Dec. 17.
“We have great gratitude for Ashlyn and Ali, two players who have been so ingrained in our club and community, so this was an extremely difficult decision,” Pride General Manager Ian Fleming said in a club press release. “However, we believe this will be in the long-term best interest of Ashlyn, Ali, and the Pride. We wish them nothing but the best in their new opportunity with Gotham FC. Each decision we make is not done in a vacuum, and with these acquired assets we will continue to work hard to develop our roster to best position this club for success and bring a championship to Orlando.”
“On behalf of the club and the Orlando community, we want to thank Ashlyn and Ali for their dedication and leadership at the Pride over the last six years,” Orlando Pride Owner and Chairman Mark Wilf said in the press release. “They both have been great ambassadors for our organization as well as great players. We wish them the best of luck on this next chapter of their careers. As we move forward, we continue to be very optimistic about the future as we build the Pride toward long-term success on the field.”
Harris, 36, was one of the first players to join the Pride back in 2015. The Cocoa Beach native returned home via the 2015 NWSL Expansion Draft as the team’s second pick (the first was defender Meghan Klingenberg, who was immediately sent to Portland as part of a previous agreement from the Alex Morgan trade). She was joined a year later by her now wife, Krieger, 37, after the two played together in Washington, D.C.
Harris has made a team-record 89 appearances in all competitions since 2016, recording 7,923 minutes. She’s conceded 135 goals from 456 shots for a 1.53 goals against average for the Pride. So far, her record for the team is 25-38-17.
Krieger joined the Pride in Nov. 2016 and has made 86 appearances for the club — second all-time behind Harris. She’s recorded 7,603 minutes and had seven assists as a right back and center back.
What It Means for Orlando
This trade is a major step in the rebuild of the Pride. The core of the team has been aging, with Harris (36) and Krieger (37) being two of those players. The two have also had their salaries subsidized by the U.S. Soccer Federation thus far in their Pride careers, due to being regulars in the USWNT pool. That hasn’t been the case since the start of the 2021 NWSL season and it is expected that neither will be allocated players in 2022. That means Orlando would be on the hook for their salaries.
The trade will ultimately be judged by what the Pride do with the assets collected, but it seems like an underwhelming return for a starting goalkeeper who won 10 NWSL Save of the Week awards in the regular season and went five-for-five in stopping penalties in 2021, along with a starting center back. The Pride must make a smart pick with the first-round choice (or trade it for a player of value), use the Allocation money wisely, and even get a useful player from the third-round pick — something that isn’t easy to do.
As things stand now, the Pride have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft.
Trading Krieger and Harris as a package deal is likely more difficult than it seems on the surface. While they’ve never publicly said they must play together, they are a married couple, so it’s logical to assume they want to play in the same city. While both players can still be productive in the NWSL, it’s not a seller’s market when shopping two players on the wrong side of 35 years old. Having them as a package deal in a 10-team league (soon to be 12) doesn’t make it any easier finding a trade partner.
Trading Krieger could pave the way for a center back pairing of Phoebe McClernon and Amy Turner in 2022. The 23-year-old McClernon was a second-round pick of the Pride in the 2020 NWSL Draft. She started the season well, but primarily came in as a sub in 2021 after the arrival of Turner.
The Pride have three goalkeepers — Canadian Women’s National Team backup Erin McLeod, Brittany Wilson, and Kaylie Collins — but all are believed to be out of contract. McLeod, Wilson and Collins were all signed through the 2021 season and would need new deals to stay on. McLeod, who originally signed a one-year deal in 2020 with an option year for 2021, played well when called upon in 2021, but she will turn 39 prior to the 2022 season.
While the assets acquired in this trade will do little in the short term to console Pride fans who have supported Krieger and Harris during their time in Orlando, the real value won’t be known for some time.