The Washington Spirit traded Diana Matheson to Seattle Reign FC, the club announced this evening. In exchange, the Spirit received versatile attacker Arielle Ship and the Reign’s natural third round pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft. Ship, selected by Seattle with the No. 26 overall pick in the recent NWSL draft, was the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2015 with the University of California.
Matheson, a Spirit original and fan favorite, is the latest in a string of prominent players to depart the Spirit this off-season. Since appearing in the 2016 final, the Spirit have traded Ali Krieger, Christine Nairn, and Megan Oyster, while seeing USWNT star Crystal Dunn and 2016 leading scorer Estefania Banini sign abroad. Banini will start the 2017 season with the Spanish side Valencia FC but her return is still possible.
On top of that, Cali Farquharson, Caprice Dydasco, and Kelsey Wys each suffered ACL tears during late 2016. These departures and injuries have come alongside reports of player discontent with the club, which became well known around the time of Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s decision to deny Megan Rapinoe the opportunity to kneel during the national anthem when the Reign visited the Spirit in September.
The Spirit have gotten quite a bit younger as a result of recent trades, which appears to be a club-wide plan, and they acquired former USWNT player Kristie Mewis to bolster their left flank. However, it would appear that the team is still quite a bit weaker on paper than they were at the end of the 2016 season.
In an Instagram post following the announcement, Matheson said it was her decision to leave the Spirit:
After four years with the Spirit I will be moving on to Seattle. As my time in DC comes to an end it is without a doubt bittersweet. The club gave me so much over the time I was there and I’ll miss so many things: The fans are among the most dedicated in the league (shout out to the Spirit Squadron), the people at the SoccerPlex and the fields they take care of are top class, and all the people that own/coach/work/volunteer/host players for the Spirit give their heart and soul to that club day in and day out. I’m proud of the people that I got to play and work with, and our push to improve on and off the field every season. It of course hurts that we didn’t reach the pinnacle last season, but I’m excited to see the club continue to push for that championship. Most of all I’ll miss my teammates and friends that play and live in the DMV. All that said, after four years and some hard thought, I’ll be leaving the Spirit. Jim and staff have been great and there has been nothing but honest conversations during the off-season. They have been pushing to do what’s right for the club, but ultimately respected my decision. I truly appreciate all the work Jim put in to work together with me on this.This business can be a tough one, and I leave with nothing but respect and gratitude for the club. Now I’m looking ahead with excitement to 2017 with the Seattle Reign. I am grateful as well to the Reign and to Laura for bringing me out west, and I can’t wait to begin my time there. I look forward to joining the great players, coaches, fans and people that make up the Reign. See you all soon!
Matheson joined the Spirit in 2013 as one of the club’s original allocated players. On a team that eventually finished in last, Matheson was a bright spot, scoring 8 of Washington’s 16 goals on the season.
In 2014, Matheson remained a starter and led the Spirit to a playoff spot. She helped set up a goal that was key to the Spirit advancing to the playoffs and also tallied an assist during the semifinal loss to the Reign.
In late October 2014, Matheson tore her left ACL and consequently missed out on much of the Spirit’s 2015 season. Matheson aimed to return in time for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which Canada hosted. A broken foot in April hurt her progress, and Matheson was only able to appear for the final 28 minutes of Canada’s 2-1 loss to England in the quarterfinal round. When she returned to the Spirit, Matheson appeared in nine games, scoring three goals and notched two assists.
Matheson also missed part of the Spirit’s 2016 season due to Canada’s bronze medal run in the Rio Olympics. Still, Matheson was an integral part of the team’s leadership. Matheson’s minutes for the Spirit decreased later in the season and Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra said he saw Matheson as a super sub. Nonetheless, it was her give-and-go with Christine Nairn that sparked what turned out to be the goal that sent Washington to their first-ever NWSL final. In her final season with the club, Matheson scored 4 goals in 12 appearances (9 starts).
"I want to thank Diana for all she has invested in our club. She has been a true professional and contributed in many ways to the growth, development, and success of our team,” said Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra.
Going back to the trade, Ship is an attacking midfielder and University of California product who was named Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2015. She scored 29 goals and 14 assists for the Bears. In the Spirit’s preferred 433 formation, Ship could play as an attacking midfielder or in either wide forward spot.
“[Arielle] is a player we believe can come in and challenge immediately for a starting spot just about anywhere in our attacking end. She’s a very creative player who provides that double threat of either providing a goal or scoring one herself,” said Gabarra. “Ari is someone we feel has a long future as a professional, so this is another player who has the ability to contribute to the Spirit for many years to come.”