And it’s official: the Portland Thorns have traded to acquire Costa Rican international Raquel Rodriguez from Sky Blue FC, the clubs announced this morning. In exchange for Rodriguez, the Thorns have given up Midge Purce and their natural first round pick in the 2021 NWSL College Draft.
Purce has been an impact player for Portland since she was picked up in the 2018 Dispersal Draft following the dissolution of the Boston Breakers. Whether called to play at outside back, wide forward, or striker, she’s made her presence on the field known. Her development over the years was showcased in a breakout 2019 NWSL season — in which she scored eight goals and earned a starting spot over Caitlin Foord — and capped off with her USWNT debut in November (ironically against Rodriguez and Costa Rica).
“Midge was a tremendous player for us in 2019 and we are grateful for all her contributions on the field and for her commitment to the Portland community,” commended general manager Gavin Wilkinson in the club’s press release.
Although a player who showed enormous growth over the past couple seasons, the Thorns’ decision to trade Purce away is understandable, as Stumptown Footy has previously touched on.
The addition of Rodriguez is an exciting prospect for Portland; she’s shown flashes of her true potential throughout her time in the NWSL. “Rocky has been a player on our radar for quite some time,” said Wilkinson, referring to Rodriguez by the nickname that has gained popularity among American fans.
After being selected second overall in the 2016 NWSL Draft, Rodriguez went on to have a stellar first season, appearing in almost every game for Sky Blue and earning Rookie of the Year honors. Working through injury, an atmosphere of discontent that shrouded the New Jersey club, and a style of play that didn’t quite line up with her strengths, Rodriguez was never able to consistently regain her rookie form, but her her prospective upsides were always evident under the surface.
A central midfielder who can shine as a ten or sit back more and work in tandem with the likes of Sarah Killion (or maybe Lindsey Horan), Rodriguez promises to bring another element to Portland’s game — her vision, creativity, and passing ability are especially fantastic.
“[Rodriguez] is a perfect fit for what our needs are on the field and she is someone who has the character and leadership to help grow our culture even stronger,” said Thorns coach Mark Parsons. His comments indicate that he believes Rodriguez will mesh with Portland’s mentality as well, something that he emphasized as an essential part of his squad throughout the 2019 season.
Rodriguez’s importance as a teammate was something she showed in New Jersey — on top of her skill on the field. “I’m extremely grateful to Rocky for giving her heart and soul to this club for four years,” said Sky Blue general manager Alyse LaHue in the press release from the club. “It was an absolute privilege to be able to work with her, and we wish her nothing but success in the next phase of her career.”