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Washington Spirit acquire USWNT defender Emily Sonnett in trade with Orlando Pride

Meggie Dougherty Howard, a 1st round pick, and allocation money head south in a major NWSL trade

Emily Sonnett (14) of USA controls ball during SheBelieves... Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Washington Spirit have officially added another World Cup winner, with USWNT defender Emily Sonnett joining the club in a remarkable trade today. The Spirit have sent midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard, the 9th overall pick in the 2021 NWSL College Draft, and $140,000 in allocation money to the Orlando Pride to acquire Sonnett. There is an additional contingency in the deal that would require the Spirit to send another first round pick to the Pride in a future draft, though the teams did not specify what benchmark would trigger that additional compensation.

In terms of high-profile additions, the Spirit have shown significant ambition during this offseason, with Sonnett the second USWNT regular to join the club in the last month. Kelley O’Hara joined the club in a deal with Utah Royals FC just three weeks ago. That move came only days after the Spirit announced that they had signed Japanese international Saori Takarada.

Sonnett, 27, has had to adjust to usually being deployed as a center back in NWSL play, while largely playing as a fullback with the USWNT. With Washington head coach Richie Burke considering a move to a back three next season, Sonnett will likely split the difference between those two roles.

Notably, that’s a role she played during a short stint in Sweden with Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, during which she lifted a league championship trophy for the second time in her career (Sonnett was also a member of the Portland Thorns when they won the NWSL in 2017). Sonnett joined the Pride in a January trade, but due to their not participating in the Challenge Cup and her move to Sweden in the fall, she never actually played a game for Orlando. Sonnett has made 74 NWSL appearances, all of which came during four seasons with Portland, and made the league’s Best XI in 2018.

“I think everyone knows that Emily Sonnett is an incredible competitor, another serial winner and someone I’ve really admired since I came into this league,” said Burke in a team press release. “I think she will make us better right away and provide leadership qualities that take us to another level. Her versatility and ability to play in several key roles for our club gives us tactical flexibility, allowing us to push some important players higher up the field.”

Dougherty Howard departs after four years with the Spirit, during which she was nearly ever-present: “MDH” made 68 of a possible 72 appearances during her time with Washington. She was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2017, and appeared in all but one of the Spirit’s Challenge Cup and Fall Series games this past season. Now closer to home, projects to be a starter at the base of the Orlando midfield in 2021.