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Defender Ali Krieger, the Washington Spirit captain who helped inspire a run to the National Women’s Soccer League final last month, was traded to the Orlando Pride on Wednesday.
In exchange, the Spirit swapped spots with the Pride in the NWSL’s distribution ranking order, which determines the allocation of elite players to the 10 teams. Washington is now No. 2 on the list behind Boston, with Orlando falling to No. 9.
Krieger, a two-time U.S. World Cup starter from Dumfries, Va., played for the Spirit since the NWSL’s inaugural season in 2013. The trade reunites her with goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, a U.S. teammate who departed the Spirit for Orlando last offseason in the expansion draft.
Krieger and Harris were Washington’s original allocations from the U.S. national team player pool.
“I would like to thank Ali for her extreme commitment and leadership over these four years,” Spirit owner Bill Lynch said in a written statement. “She has played a major role in our efforts to build a strong foundation for the future.”
Krieger, 32, did not reply to an email seeking comment.
It’s unclear whether Krieger requested a trade or the team made the decision unilaterally. According to sources, she learned of the trade from the Pride, not the Spirit.
“She’s extremely experienced, a great leader, great personality and a great signing for us leading into 2017,” Pride Coach Tom Sermanni said.
Krieger was a member of the U.S. Olympic squad in Brazil. Following the top-ranked Americans’ shock defeat in the quarterfinals, while many U.S. teammates took time off, she reported back to the Spirit almost right away, intent, she said, on winning the NWSL title. The Spirit finished second in the regular season and defeated the Chicago Red Stars in the semifinals before falling to the Western New York Flash on penalty kicks following a 2-2 draw.
The trade comes amid broader player unhappiness about the Washington organization, sources said.
Asked if it was fair to say the players are not happy with management in general, one source close to the situation said: “Yes. Very fair.”
While discontent has largely remained under the surface, players did go public in early September after Lynch prevented a visiting player, Megan Rapinoe, from kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” by ordering the anthem to be played while both teams were still in the locker room. Upset that Lynch’s actions overshadowed the regular season home finale and the clinching of home-field advantage in the playoffs, Krieger led an effort to issue a statement expressing the players’ disappointment.
Spirit attacker Crystal Dunn, the 2015 NWSL MVP who scored twice in last month’s championship defeat, is apparently seeking to move overseas. One source said Dunn is eyeing the French league. Like Krieger, Dunn is under contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which underwrites the NWSL by paying the salaries of marquee U.S. players.