The Houston Dash traded their second-round draft pick to the Portland Thorns, as well as next years second round pick, in exchange for a player who was to be named later. That evening it was released that Jessica McDonald would be that player.
I caught up with Stumptown Footy's Jeremiah Braeback to get his thoughts on Jessica McDonald and the trade with Portland.
1) McDonald was the top scorer for the Thorns last year and the Dash sorely needed goals last season. Is that something that Dash fans can expect to get from her in 2015? Will McDonald need a strong midfield to be able to score goals or will she be able to create them on her own?
McDonald should be able to adjust fairly well to a new team. She has had a bit of a nomadic career this far, and the Dash are her fourth team in the NWSL in the past two years and has spent the offseason in Germany, where she has been with Herforder SV, where she netted three goals in her first two appearances, but then missed several matches due to issues relating to whether or not her transfer was a loan or a sale. It appears that dispute was settled, as she has appeared recently with the German side, but has yet to find the back of the net.
Much of what she was able to accomplish last season occurred early in the season, when Alex Morgan was recovering from an ankle injury and Vero and Tobin Heath had yet to arrive. At that point, the Thorns midfield was relatively ineffective as a unit, though she partnered well with Allie Long, who had been a former college teammate of hers at UNC, and for the first seven matches of the season, the goal-scoring only came from McDonald and Long.
She scored in a variety of ways for the Thorns last season. Sometimes she was on the end of a cross, others just at the right place at the right time, or blowing through defenders and chipping the keeper, as she did for her second goal against FC Kansas City on April 26.
Most of all, she is a very opportunistic player, which is an important quality that you want from a striker and has a genuine passion for the game. She should easily win fans over in Houston for this aspect alone. Had she not been stuck behind Morgan and Sinclair for the latter half of the season, there is a chance she could have led the league in scoring at the end of the season.
2) What are the strongest aspects of her game? What are her weaknesses?
As I stated above, she is a very opportunistic player that can score in a variety of ways. She uses her athleticism to her advantage to beat defenders and looks to finish when changes are given to her. That said, she needs to be on the pitch for most of the game to be truly effective, as 8 of her 11 goals were scored in matches where she started, though she did score 33 seconds into the match against Chicago on July 17, and her two multi-goal games came when she scored after the 80th minute.
If she has a truly glaring weakness, it is that she can be a bit streaky. She'll score in consecutive matches, then go quiet for a couple matches. To open and close the season, she went through dry spells, especially at the end of last season, where she didn't score in 6 matches.
3) Do you think that it was a fair trade? McDonald for a second round draft pick this year and next year.
This will be a question that will be easier to answer at the end of the season. Since the draft picks were subsequently sent to Spirit for Jodie Taylor, the true measure of this trade will be how those two players stack up at the end of the season. Ultimately, this trade will likely be beneficial not only McDonald, as it sends her to a team where she will definitely start, but it also allowed the Thorns to acquire a player Riley considered to more be "proven." The real question is will McDonald be able to continue her form with the Dash, a team that has essentially been rebuilt this off-season, though in many ways the Thorns were in a similar spot last season when they essentially overhauled their roster despite winning the Championship the year before. All indications are that the Thorns are bringing in more big name players for the upcoming season, so this trade could be similar to when the Thorns traded Karina LeBlanc to the Red Stars to give her a better chance to play.