"Audaces fortuna juvat" read the Seattle Reign's twitter feed at about 11:59 a.m. on Monday. And one minute later, it said this:
"Reign FC has acquired Sydney Leroux from Boston in exchange for Kristie Mewis, goalkeeper Michelle Betos & draft picks."
It was an announcement so blockbuster, one could forgive the Reign's busting out a little eighth grade Latin to precede it; after all, Leroux's star --already shining quite brightly, thank you, with 24 goals in 43 caps for the USWNT since 2011-- is on the rise. An argument could be made that, when she's on, she's the best forward in the NWSL. Actually, the same could be said of her place on the USWNT as well.
We knew something big was coming on Monday. Earlier in the day Seattle head coach Laura Harvey couldn't help but lay out her own bit of Twitter-bait. "Today is going to be a good day....," she posted. "Busy but good.... and then......"
And then, indeed. As troll-y as Harvey's hints might have been, you couldn't really blame her desire to stretch out the moment of her greatest NWSL triumph as long as she could. After all, the Reign endured a dismal season last year, finishing 5-14-3, seventh out of eight, and since then Harvey's been wheeling and dealing, her wizardly machinations culminating in this, the ultimate coup. Her early acquisition of Mewis would have been plenty to help assuage Seattle's offensive woes (they managed only 22 goals in the 2013 season, compared to Portland's 34), or, at least, the recently capped Mewis's very potential would have earned Harvey everyone's vote for Off-Season Baller of the Year, if such a thing existed.
But snagging Leroux --that's an entirely different get. To be sure, even a cursory read of both Leroux's and the Breakers' comments in the official press releases indicates Leroux wanted out of Boston and back to the PNW, so Harvey's triumph isn't quite as much mystical thievery as it is opportunistic pouncing. But, still, it's the result of something pretty impressive, when you think about it, which is this: Harvey was hell-bent on improving this team, and she f***ing went out and did it, in a matter of just a few months. Her competitive fire was rendered impotent in the face of the Reign's early bad luck during the 2013 season, so at some point she recalibrated her focus on next year. I think about the day when, after losing yet again to the Thorns, she kicked a pen in the ultimate embodiment of ineffectual frustration. I'm beginning to think that by the time she had leaned over to pick up her Bic, the mental gears were already grinding.
If it wasn't that particular moment, it was soon after. That 2-1 loss to the Thorns was on August 17. The NWSL final was on August 31. On September 6, Seattle waived forward Kristina Larsen and midfielder Kristen Meier. On September 10, Seattle traded allocated Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle for allocated Canadian defender Carm Moscato from Boston. After a short lull, more dominoes fell, ultimately leading to picking up Mewis, leading to picking up Leroux and then today's announcement that the Reign also had acquired the much-heralded Scottish attacking midfielder Kim Little. (The latter bit, by the way, would have been huge news were it not eclipsed by the Leroux hubbub. Such is the caliber of bombshell Harvey's been dropping of late.)
None of this was by accident. Reign owner Bill Predmore said in a statement: "At the end of last season we crafted a comprehensive plan to reshape our roster with the intent of building a squad capable of competing at the highest level. The trade for Sydney is a massive step in the right direction, but only one of several moves we intend to make before the start of the season. Our supporters should expect more good news in the days and weeks ahead."
So, yeah, there's a plan.
If that seems like a lot of analysis about a team that is not the Thorns, well, that's for two reasons. First, Seattle, of course, is our derby rival, so anytime the Reign so much as sneeze, the achoo reverberates straight down I-5.
Second: There's just not a heck of a lot to analyze on the Thorns side of things at this juncture. Which is part of the story, really.
So far, the biggest move the Thorns have publically made is their waiving of defender Nikki Marshall (whose rights, thanks to Harvey's fiendish cleverness, are now owned by Seattle as well) back on September 6. Since then, the media alerts from the Thorns FO that have landed in my inbox have been about Alex Morgan and Rachel Buehler getting called up for the national team games, the FIFA POY and COTY nominations, head coach Cindy Parlow Cone's impending charity trip to India, and --on the very day that Harvey fluffed her own feathers on Twitter about Leroux -- a release about the Timbers/Thorns store opening up at Pioneer Place.
It's tempting to draw scary conclusions from this series of events. The Reign/Harvey's very public, hyperspeed actions have revealed a very clear vision and the ability to execute a plan to reach that vision, while relative silence from the Thorns camp promotes the perception that there is no plan on our side of things, nor is there any particular desire to change this roster in the first place. That perception isn't helped much by the fact that, after much pestering from yours truly, the FO finally issued this statement from Parlow Cone (I wanted to speak with her, but was told she is unavailable this week):
"We have a very talented roster and will continue to look to improve that roster in the offseason and during preseason."
It's not much to go on.
But! I know we all got our collective Twitter panties in a wad as Harvey's witchery manifested to the tune of crickets from the Thorns FO --and I'm just as guilty as anybody of hitting the panic button-- but before we go off the deep end, we're all well served to remember some things:
First: Just because this organization isn't particularly forthcoming about what's happening behind the scenes doesn't mean there's nothing happening behind the scenes.
Second: Call it the Off-Season Theory of Relativity --any team making a million moves a minute is going to make any team not making any moves look as if they are going backwards in comparison.
Third (related to the second): While it can't be doubted that Seattle has made quantum leaps of improvement in a short amount of time, talent-wise, Harvey's achievements appear extra dramatic because of the low point from where she began. This is a team that sucked for a good chunk of last year and ended with a pitiful record, and which we beat four times. The Thorns, meanwhile, won the damn championship. Every move the Reign have made since then is geared toward playing catch-up, and it's a lot easier to go all in when you don't have a lot of chips on the table. It looks pretty cool, too. But you never want to be in that situation to start.
Fourth (related to the third): The Thorns may very well be standing pat for the most part. But they are standing pat with a championship team. How much roster-diddling does a championship team need?
Fifth: There is still plenty of off-season left to go: The Thorns could make a trade at any second. Or they might find a diamond in the draft. Or...who knows?
Still, here's the thing about perception: In the midst of vagaries, we derive truth from what we can see in front of us. And what we see from the Reign is that they are driven to improve and, on paper, they have improved greatly. What we see from the Thorns is a team that is doing nothing and is therefore not improving.
That is what we see, but it's not what we know.
There are a lot of things we don't know. It'll shake out without much prelude on the Thorns part, I imagine, and in the meantime we're just going to have to wait it out and maybe grasp onto part of another Latin phrase, "Perfer et obdura" -Be patient and tough.