The Washington Spirit on Tuesday acquired a third young U.S. national team player this offseason — and fourth since last spring — by trading into the top spot in the National Women’s Soccer League dispersal draft and claiming midfielder Rose Lavelle.
The draft was necessitated by last week’s closure of the Boston Breakers, which left 24 players out of work.
Washington was slated to pick second, but in the hours before the draft, the Spirit swapped positions with Sky Blue FC to take Lavelle. The New Jersey team also received the higher of Washington’s two first-round picks in the 2019 college draft and a second-rounder next year.
Lavelle, 22, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 college draft. The former Wisconsin star made her national team debut last March and has become one of several rising stars for Coach Jill Ellis. In 2017, she made seven appearances (all starts), scored twice and assisted once.
Lavelle missed this month’s training camp and friendly against Denmark because of a hamstring injury. Her rookie season with Boston was also marred by a hamstring ailment.
Lavelle joins a Washington squad featuring national team members Mallory Pugh, 19; Andi Sullivan, 22; and Taylor Smith, 24. All four are projected to make the 2019 Women’s World Cup team. Pugh, Sullivan and Smith started in the 5-1 U.S. victory over Denmark on Jan. 21 in San Diego.
If they are healthy, Ellis is likely to choose all four for the SheBelieves Cup, March 1-7 at U.S. venues, featuring the top-ranked United States, No. 2 Germany, No. 3 England and No. 6 France.
The Spirit acquired Sullivan (Lorton, Va.; Stanford University) with the No. 1 pick in the Jan. 18 draft in Philadelphia and received Smith as part of a trade with the North Carolina Courage for the rights to national team attacker Crystal Dunn. (Dunn played for English club Chelsea in 2017.)
Pugh, the first national team member to bypass NCAA soccer for the NWSL, arrived last spring through the league’s distribution ranking order.
Spirit Coach Jim Gabarra’s lineup is likely to include Lavelle in the central attacking midfield role, Sullivan behind her, Pugh on the right wing and Smith at right back.
Last week, Washington acquired goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe from the Orlando Pride for captain Shelina Zadorsky, a Canadian national team defender. Bledsoe will compete with Kelsey Wys for the starting job.
In the later rounds of the dispersal draft, the Spirit claimed defender Elizabeth Wenger (a rookie from Georgetown) and midfielder Tiffany Weimer, who was with Washington in 2014-15.
Training camp will open in three weeks. The NWSL season will kick off March 24 with nine teams playing 24 matches apiece. The league has yet to announce the schedule.
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