News of a surprising move hit timelines Monday morning, prompting an instant deluge of questions. OL Reign forward Ally Watt had been traded to Orlando Pride for $125,000 in allocation money. The questions begin by looking at the date and current NWSL table – why now, why Orlando?
Those two questions alone raise the question of whether this was a move Watt wanted or whether she was being moved, eight days before the trade deadline, for some other reason.
Wait a minute, huh?!?
In the hours after the trade, multiple reports suggested Watt was in search of playing time to catch up on her development after a lengthy recovery from an ACL tear in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup.
From this vantage point the trade appears to make a bit more sense. OL Reign have a nearly unlimited supply of attacking talent. While Jordyn Huitema and Bethany Balcer are traditional forwards and not likely in Watt’s way, 37-year-old Megan Rapinoe and 34-year-old Tobin Heath are. Additionally, younger talents Tziarra King (23) and Veronica Latsko (26) have all seen more time. Since the start of the season, Watt had only seen over 30 minutes of match time three times, while Latsko doubled that number and King has exceeded the total four matches and counting.
However, it’s a gamble. While Reign are just one spot above the last playoff slot, they seem much too talented of a team to crash out of the postseason before it starts. Orlando has found an identity under Seb Hines, but at No. 8, and five points away from the last postseason slot, there’s a chance Watt’s opportunities for minutes could dry up after seven games (assuming she’s ready to get into the team immediately).
If Orlando’s re- re- (re-) rebuild is going to stick this time, Watt could prove an important piece. According to American Soccer Analysis, Orlando’s expected goals this season are the second lowest in the league (13.65; fewer than a goal a game), adding Watt to dynamic attacker Darian Jenkins and recently signed prodigious teenage talent Haley Bugeja could improve that immediately and in the long-term.
Miraculously, after a lengthy rehab filled with setbacks and frustrations, Watt is still one of the quickest players in the league. She is lightning bolt fast, comfortable on the ball and, evidently, eager to make up for lost time.
Another Revenge Tour?
Crystal Dunn had one of the NWSL’s greatest revenge tours, taking her frustration of being left off of the 2015 USWNT World Cup roster and winning that season’s golden boot and MVP. Currently, Ebony Salmon is on her own such tour, having dropped six goals across six games for Houston Dash after only playing 75 minutes this regular season for Racing Louisville.
Watt’s move to Orlando is bold but, with additional context, understandable. And, as fate would have it, two of the Pride’s remaining seven regular season matches are against Watt’s now former team.