NEW YORK — In the latest National Women’s Soccer League blockbuster trade this week, Midge Purce is heading to Sky Blue FC along with the Portland Thorns‘ natural first round draft pick in 2021. In exchange, the Thorns acquired midfielder Raquel Rodríguez, it was announced Wednesday.
The moves come as both teams attempt to improve on their 2019 league finishes. The Thorns season ended in a disappointing run of one win in five matches, a third-place finish in the table, and elimination in the playoff semifinal. Sky Blue improved from 2018 by moving up from ninth place to eighth, but the team has aimed to be truly competitive in 2020.
Purce is a versatile player, used by the Thorns as a fullback in 2018 before moving up the pitch in 2019. She went on a streak of scoring five goals in five matches last season with eight overall goals in the 2019 season. Purce joined the Thorns after the Boston Breakers folded in 2017.
“She is incredibly skilled and will play an integral part in our success this season,” Sky Blue head coach Freya Coombe said in a club statement. “We look forward to welcoming her talents to Sky Blue.”
Additionally, Purce’s trade allows Sky Blue to continue its transformation over the last year. General manager Alyse LaHue told Pro Soccer USA in December many of its notable moves, from a venue switch to Red Bull Arena to hiring Coombe, was part of a mission to attract players.
“We want to make this club a destination club and a place that players want to come to, both domestic players and international players,” LaHue said, “so this has been a work in progress for us.”
Going the other way is Rodríguez, who was drafted by Sky Blue in 2016 and was a mainstay during her tenure. The Costa Rica international played as a forward and as an attacking midfielder in her four seasons with the club, earning Rookie of the Year honors in her debut season. She scored eight goals and picked up five assists in 76 games with Sky Blue.
“‘Rocky’ is an elite midfielder who has proven to be one of the best in the league at her position,” Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said in a statement. “She is a perfect fit for what our needs are on the field and she is someone who has the character and leadership to help grow our culture even stronger.”
The move marks Sky Blue’s first big player news of the offseason. Earlier Wednesday, the Thorns traded away Emily Sonnett and Caitlin Foord, along with two draft picks, to the Orlando Pride for the No. 1 draft pick.