Portland soccer Twitter was a sea of crying-face emojis today after two big trade announcements clarified several days’ worth of swirling rumors: This morning, the Thorns’ front office shared that US national team player and four-year Thorn Emily Sonnett and the rights to Australian national team player Caitlin Foord are being traded to Orlando in a move that gives the Thorns the no. 1 pick in next week’s National Women’s Soccer League College Draft. Hours later, the other shoe dropped with the news that Midge Purce, who had her first cap for the US national team in November, is headed to New Jersey–based Sky Blue FC in exchange for Costa Rica native and Penn State alum Rocky Rodríguez and a first-round draft pick for 2021.
Sonnett, the no. 1 draft pick in 2016 out of the University of Virginia, has spent the past four seasons with the club, racking up nearly 80 games in a Thorns kit. She appeared in one game for the US at the World Cup in June, became legend for comically picking her nose on the bench on national TV in October (the natural goofball always seems to know just where the camera is, as well as where the nearest Waffle House is, and Portland—nay, the world—loves her for it), and shone on the pitch in a pair of friendlies for the US in November.
Foord, who’s currently in her home country playing for the W-League’s Sydney FC squad, joined the Thorns in 2018, part of a trade that sent longtime Portland player Allie Long to Seattle. She played in nearly a dozen games total for the Thorns, with a long absence in 2019 for Australia’s World Cup run.
Arriving in Portland on short notice after the Boston Breakers suddenly dissolved at the start of 2018, Purce had a strong first season with the Thorns but really caught fire in 2019 while many of her teammates were in France for the World Cup. Last summer she was also in the news talking about her experience as a black athlete in what’s still a very white sport in this country. Her first appearance for the US national team came in November against Costa Rica (with Rodríguez also starting for her home country—born Margaret and Raquel, they also share two of the league’s best nicknames).
Sonnett arrived in Portland in 2016 amid a sea of new faces, including national team vet Meghan Klingenberg, Danish international Nadia Nadim, future NWSL goalkeeper of the year Adrianna Franch, and head coach Mark Parsons. As more roster updates are sure to come with next week’s NWSL College Draft, 2020 appears to be a similar year of big moves for the team.
“Coming into the offseason we knew we would have to make several bold moves that strengthen the team with the objective of getting back to the NWSL Final,” Thorns and Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said in a news release. “Acquiring the first pick in the draft was essential for us and we believe the player we select will not only help in the short term, but will be someone that will grow with the club and become a fixture in this team for years to come.”
Orlando “earned” the top draft pick this year by having the worst record in the NWSL last season. The Thorns led the league midseason but finished third in the standings, eventually falling to the no. 2 Chicago Red Stars in the league semifinals in October.