Canadian international and starting center back Shelina Zadorsky will start the 2018 NWSL season in Orlando after a trade that sends her to the Orlando Pride in exchange for goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and the Pride’s natural first round draft pick for 2019. It’s the second straight season in which the Washington Spirit has traded their captain to Orlando, with Ali Krieger joining the Pride last winter.
Zadorsky’s departure leaves the Spirit thin at center back. The acquisition of USWNT right back Taylor Smith will allow Estelle Johnson to move back into the middle in 2018, but at the moment Johnson and Whitney Church are the only full-time center backs on the roster. Kassey Kallman has a contract offer in hand from the Spirit as well. Today’s trade is an indicator that Rebecca Quinn, the third overall pick in last Thursday’s NWSL draft, may spend more time in central defense. Oddly enough, she has recently partnered Zadorsky for Canada at center back.
Bledsoe, 26, dealt with injuries earlier in her career but gave a strong performance in net for 11 games last season while Ashlyn Harris was injured. Her addition seems to indicate that Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé’s return to the Spirit next season is in doubt. Labbé started 17 games for the Spirit last year. If she were to leave, Washington would still have Bledsoe, DiDi Haracic, and Kelsey Wys vying for the starting job.
Bledsoe joined the NWSL in 2015 and logged eight minutes for Sky Blue FC. She was then selected by Orlando in the expansion draft. She played in a May match against Kansas City and made four saves but her season ended in mid-June when she suffered a broken left tibia. In 2017 she made 11 consecutive starts, helping Orlando towards their first-ever playoff spot while posting two shutouts.