A wild offseason for the Washington Spirit continued today with yet another major trade. The Spirit shipped center back Megan Oyster, the #3 and #9 overall picks in the 2017 NWSL draft, and the #2 spot in the league’s Distribution Ranking Order (the league’s method for distributing national team players not currently on a team, basically) to the Boston Breakers. In return, the Spirit have acquired attacker Kristie Mewis, defender Kassey Kallman, and the #1 spot in the Distribution Ranking Order.
Oyster, the Spirit’s first-round pick in 2015, played every second of her rookie season under Mark Parsons. In 2016, she was on course for nearly the same achievement (head coach Jim Gabarra subbed her out to add a forward late in a loss to the Portland Thorns in an effort to spark a comeback), extending her consecutive start streak to 34 games.
However, after the Olympic break, Oyster found herself on the bench behind Whitney Church and Estelle Johnson. Shelina Zadorsky’s return from winning the bronze medal in Rio with Canada only compounded things, and Oyster started just one of the Spirit’s final six regular season games. However, Gabarra did turn to her as a late sub in Washington’s overtime semifinal victory over the Chicago Red Stars. A week later, Oyster was among the best players on the field in the NWSL championship game playing on the right side of a back three for the first time all year.
The 25 year old Mewis, with 15 USWNT caps to her name, will join a Spirit front line that has lost Estefania Banini to Spanish club Valencia and Cali Farquharson to a torn ACL. Star forward Crystal Dunn has also been strongly linked to pursuit of a move abroad. Mewis is a wide player who could fit into both the 433 (Washington’s primary formation) and the 352 that serves as the club’s alternate plan.
On the downside, Mewis has not been called into a US camp in some time, and that’s in part down to a 2016 season that did not go well for her. Mewis appeared in 14 of Boston’s 20 games, scoring one goal and notching one assist. Those numbers are low, but at least part of that must be linked to a Breakers attack that couldn’t find goals anywhere.
It remains to be seen whether a change of scenery will be what Mewis needs. There are reasons to think she can get back on track. In 2015, Mewis played all but 15 minutes for the Breakers, putting up 6 goals and 2 assists. She had 3 goals and 2 assists the year before that in 17 appearances. Her left-footed set piece delivery is a reliable threat, too, which is important for the Spirit now that Christine Nairn is gone.
Kallman has been an extremely durable center back for Boston. She played 3600 consecutive minutes for the Breakers after arriving, which is to say she has not missed a second since her rookie season with FC Kansas City (when she started 18 games). A former captain at Florida State - where she played with current Spirit forward Cheyna Williams - Kallman will step into Oyster’s role on the roster, which means battling with Church and Johnson for playing time. She was part of the American under-20 national team that won the 2012 World Cup, and has played for the under-23s as well.
As for the various player acquisition methods, time will tell just how much they meant in this deal. The #3 and #9 draft picks appear to be pretty valuable, and the Spirit only just acquired the #3 pick in the deal that sent Nairn to Seattle. Moving to the top of the Distribution Ranking Order could theoretically land a player like Mallory Pugh, but as Portland learned last year, she could easily choose to stay in school. Players like Rose Lavelle and Kadeisha Buchanan - already a full-time starter for Canada at age 21 - could also end up going through the DRO, but they could also end up in the draft instead.