Saturday, May 18, 2024
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NWSL Vibe Check: Why Maria Sanchez moved from Houston to San Diego; Marta retires from Brazil national team

The NWSL is officially five weeks into its 2024 regular season and the primary transfer window is officially closed so it’s time for another Vibe check! This is the place where you will get an insider’s view and my unfiltered takes on all things women’s soccer. There was plenty of action during the transfer window and every team is back in action for week 6, so let’s get to it! Obviously the question on everybody’s mind is what exactly happened with Maria Sanchez?

San Diego gets their player

Wave FC head coach Casey Stoney confirmed during a pre-match conference that San Diego has been in the running for Sanchez’s services for a couple of years now. The player was on their radar in their build-up as an expansion side, and again during the offseason free agency period. The club pitched themselves to the attacker in December, but she ultimately signed with Houston. 

Now, just four months later, San Diego have finally acquired the player. 

“It’s been a tough month for me mentally, I’m excited to be here and excited to focus on soccer,” Sanchez said in her introductory press conference. “I do wish there were different rules but at the end of the day, it’s what we have … I’m lucky that everything worked out in a way that I liked … hopefully, [the rules] can change.”

Stoney further explained that the move for Sanchez happened quickly, and the second attempt was mostly handled by club executives and the player’s management team. The head coach also said she found out just hours ahead of their Orlando Pride game on the road that the winger would be a Wave FC player. 

There’s a bit of all is well that ends well here, with Sanchez also mentioning in her press conference that she “thinks” she is in good standing with former Dash coaches and players. 

Houston Dash Saga

As for the Houston Dash, while plenty of teams were active during the recent transfer window, no club got more attention than the Texas side. Having the franchise player you signed to a record contract only months ago demand a trade will do that.  The transfer window brought lots of attention around the club, good and poor, in terms of players moving in and out of the club.

Of course, the main focal point was Sanchez. After days of will-they-won’t-they, she was eventually dealt at the deadline to San Diego Wave FC for a record $300,000 in Intra-League Funds, $200,000 in allocation money and international slots for 2024 and 2025. 

That paved the way for other moves. Houston also traded goalkeeper Emily Alvarado to Portland Thorns FC for $35,000 in allocation money, a deal that CBS Sports understands was made in part by the player’s desire for a different environment. Sources also say there were additional players interested in moving on from the club during the April window. 

The Dash welcomed centerback Paige Nielsen in a trade with Angel City FC and acquired Brazilian defender Tarciane from Corinthians. It’s an immediate upgrade for the Dash who need defensive help after leading the league in goals allowed (14) and sitting in 12th place on a 14-team table. 

Getting defensive reinforcements is a huge gain for the Dash, but ultimately, the transfer window added to a decade-long narrative around the club’s ability to cultivate a competitive environment that leads to success. The Texas side has been an NWSL franchise since 2014 but has never put a consecutive run of successful seasons together. 

The club recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, a decade that includes an inaugural Challenge Cup title and one playoff appearance in 2022. It also featured eight different coaches across positions from full-time head coach, to acting head coach, and interim roles. Current coach Fran Alonso, who was hired this season, is the eighth person to lead the club. 

Two of the former coaches, Vera Pauw and James Clarkson, have had allegations against them regarding workplace discrimination, harassment, and bullying. Pauw departed from the club in 2018, after one season, before the NWSL anti-harassment policy was put into place. Clarkson was suspended during an investigation into allegations during the 2022 season and his contract was not renewed as it expired at the end of that season.

With so much change there’s hardly been an opportunity for success, and after ten years of sub-par seasons despite star individual performances (Kealia Ohai Watt, Rachel Daly, Jane Campbell), the recent transfer window has possibly brought a turning point for the Dash. That may all depend on perspective because for others maybe it’s a breaking point.

Want more coverage of women’s soccer? Listen below and make sure to watch Attacking Third on Golazo Network Monday and Friday for all your USWNT, NWSL and WSL women’s soccer coverage.

Marta set to retire from Brazil women’s national team

It will truly be the end of an era for Brazil women’s football. After playing in her final World Cup in 2023, Marta announced on CNN Brazil that 2024 would be her final year playing on the national team.

“This is my last year, and I can already confirm it here. There is a moment when we have to understand that the time has come. I am very calm about this, because I see with great optimism the development that [Brazil national team] is having in relation to young athletes.”

Marta’s rise to provenance came before the social media era on the internet. She made her international debut in 2002 with the U20 team and was with the senior team in 2003. Fuzzy clips of her greatness can now be found all over pockets of the internet. Her impact on the game is felt across the globe, after playing on three continents, and we were reminded of if it as players continue to pay homage to her.

The 38-year-old player was on Brazil’s 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup roster that was eliminated during the group stage. The South Americans are already qualified for the upcoming Olympic Games in France and the tournament is set to begin on July 25. They were drawn into Group C with Spain, Japan, and Nigeria. 

Brazil manager Arthur Elias has rotated the player pool a lot during his time with the national team. While Marta was not named to the Concacaf W Gold Cup roster, he did call her into camp for the SheBelieves Cup, alongside veteran teammate Cristiane. Still, cracking an Olympic roster is a challenge, with only 16 field players typically chosen along with two goalkeepers. 

“If I go to the Olympics, I will enjoy every moment, because, regardless of whether I go to the Olympics or not, this is my last year with the national team. There is no longer Marta in the national team from 2025 onwards,” she said.

She is currently under contract with Orlando Pride through the 2024 season, and she has not made an official decision on retiring from club play at this time. Still, a final World Cup, and now a final year with Brazil, can only mean the legend is evaluating her future. That means that those fortunate enough to attend Orlando Pride games at home or on the road still have a chance to witness women’s soccer’s biggest icon. 

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