The Orlando Pride have acquired Utah Royals forward Sydney Leroux in exchange for a 2019 NWSL natural first-round draft pick, completing a highly anticipated trade that reunites U.S. Soccer’s highest profile couple.
Leroux and her 1-year-old son, Cassius, will live in the same city as her husband, Orlando City striker Dom Dwyer. Leroux and Dwyer became the first husband and wife to score goals for the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams in 2017.
Their Orlando reunion had been expected ever since Dwyer moved from Sporting Kansas City to Orlando City last season, separating the couple that has a vast fan following on social media.
Leroux was thrilled the transaction was completed Friday. Earlier this week, she toured Orlando City Stadium for the first time as a member of the Pride rather than opponent or supportive spouse.
“I’m very excited. I mean, I woke up this morning and I’m ready to go,” Leroux said in an exclusive interview with ProSoccerUSA. “I’m ready for season to start. But most importantly for me, our family is together now. … The fact that Cassius can watch both his mom and his dad play in the same city at the same stadium is really a cool thing and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
While the family connections matter, Leroux is highly competitive and eager to help the talented Orlando Pride win a championship.
“It’s a special place and they came really close last year,” Leroux said. “Hopefully … I can bring an NWSL title back to Orlando.”
Leroux has posted 36 goals during 80 appearances in the W-League and NWSL. She also has scored 35 goals during 77 appearances with the U.S. women’s national team.
She was part of the U.S. 2015 FIFA World Cup team, playing in four of the seven games and recording one assist as the Americans won the title.
Leroux will face considerable competition for minutes in Orlando, but she said she’s looking forward to the challenge.
The Orlando Pride lineup roster features forwards Alex Morgan, Marta, Rachel Hill, Chioma Ubogagu, Danica Evans and Jamia Fields.
Morgan and Marta are international stars who proved to be a formidable goal-scoring duo during the Pride’s run to the 2017 NWSL playoffs, while Hill has been on fire competing in the Australian W-League this offseason.
Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni rejects the suggestion he has too many forwards.
“I’m absolutely delighted to bring a player of Syd’s caliber, character and personality into the club,” Sermanni said. “I think she’ll be a great fit for our team on the field, and I think she’ll be a great fit for the club off the field.”
Sermanni said the Pride traded Jasmyne Spencer to the Seattle Reign last week and Leroux simply takes up the forward spot she left behind.
He said Leroux is a bit more physical than the Pride’s other forwards and should bring an edge to the pitch.
“Firstly, she scores goals. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “And then she brings great physical attributes in the sense that her pace and her power and her physical presence will be a huge attribute, particularly in this competition.”
He expects the battle for minutes to help his team improve and sees a bright future for Leroux, who he called one of his best players when he coached the U.S. women’s national team in 2012.
“She’s coming into her prime and I think coming here for her is a big positive step as well, in that regard both on and off the field, because of her status and influence,” he said. “That off the field influence is so important to us, but I think from her perspective, she has a chance to come here and get herself back into the national team picture.”
Sermanni said it was inevitable Leroux took a bit of a competitive step back when she had a baby and saw her spouse traded to Orlando, putting a lot of pressure on her while she was trying to regain elite form on the pitch. FC Kansas City was in the process of shutting down and all the factors inevitably translated to a dip in performance.
“Now that she’s back in a place where she can be 100 percent focused on her football, she’s going to really show what she can do,” he said.
Leroux effusively praised her former FC Kansas City teammates and coaches for serving as a second family for her, but the separation from her husband while raising a toddler was overwhelming.
“Last year, we weren’t necessarily ready for that when Dom got traded in the middle of the season,” she said. “So we said after that hard year, we said we couldn’t do that again. So it was either we were both going to play in Salt Lake City, we both were going to be here or Dom would be here and I was going to figure something out.”
The Pride were careful to avoid any tampering, clearly stating last season Leroux was under contract with FC Kansas City. The Kansas City club folded after the 2017 season and its players were transferred to expansion side Utah Royals FC.
Leroux said FC Kansas City and Utah Royals coaches were all very understanding and actively looked for ways to move her to Orlando.
But the deal wasn’t sealed until the Pride traded their chances to get any Boston Breakers players in Dispersal Draft Tuesday in order to secure a first-round pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft. That was sufficient compensation for the Royals to move Leroux.
“I’m grateful,” Leroux said.
Before a deal for Leroux was locked in, Dwyer said during preseason training with the Lions he would love to see his family reunited full time in Orlando.
“I’m hopeful for that,” he said earlier this month of Leroux possibly joining the Pride. “It will be very special for me to have my family here as well. For us to all be together, I think that would be good for the club. It’s her career and it’s something that’s not really in my control, but of course I can only hope for that.”
Leroux said after she learned the transaction was official from Utah coach Laura Harvey, she was elated and called Dwyer, who was training with the Lions in Jacksonville. They texted back and forth often, celebrating the good news.
“We’re looking for a house,” she said. “We’re ready to put our feet in the ground here, that’s for sure, and I’m just very excited to be a part of it. And I’m super excited for the fans. Like I said, it’s going to be an amazing year.”
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) February 2, 2018