Since Paul Riley took charge of the Portland Thorns four months ago, the team has been linked repeatedly to Spanish attacking midfielder Veronica Boquete. Now, with less than a week before the season kicks off, the team have finally gotten their lady.
Thanks to a trade announced on Saturday by the Western New York Flash, the Thorns have acquired Boquete's rights and midfielder Sarah Huffman for Katheryn Williamson, Courtney Wetzel, and the Thorn's first round pick in the 2015 college draft. A creative, attacking midfielder, "Vero" Boquete will be available in the summer, after the UEFA Champions League is over and will be a part of the Thorns' expected mid-season transfusion of talent alongside Tobin Heath, who will be returning from her loan to Paris Saint Germain, and Alex Morgan, who should be returning from her current ankle injury.
In Boquete the Thorns will have their first true No. 10: a player who is capable of creating, and scoring, goals from the center of the pitch. Since signing her first professional contract at 18, Boquete has scored more than 140 goals for he club teams and another 24 for Spain's national team in just 34 caps.
Although the Thorns have been stacked with attacking talent since the formation of the NWSL, Boquete could taken them to another level, taking some of the playmaking weight off of the shoulders of players like Christine Sinclair and instead letting the all-time Canadian goalscoring leader score more goals. (Sinclair has more than twice as many goals as the next highest scorer in Canada's history, Charmaine Hooper.)
The Thorns' press release:
THORNS FC ACQUIRE SPANISH INTERNATIONAL VERÓNICA BOQUETE, MIDFIELDER SARAH HUFFMAN FROM WESTERN NEW YORK IN EXCHANGE FOR MIDFIELDER COURTNEY WETZEL, DEFENDER KATHRYN WILLIAMSON, 2015 FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK
PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC have acquired Spanish international midfielder Verónica Boquete and midfielder Sarah Huffman from the Western New York Flash in exchange for midfielder Courtney Wetzel, defender Kathryn Williamson and Portland’s first-round pick in the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League College Draft, it was announced today.
Boquete, 27, recorded six goals in 18 games for Tyresö FF during the 2013 Swedish Damallsvenskan season, helping lead the Scandinavian club to a runner-up finish and a berth in the 2013-14 UEFA Women’s Champions League tournament. Among the individual honors for the attacking midfielder, Boquete was named Damallsvenskan Midfielder of the Year in 2012 after recording seven goals and eight assist for league champions, Tyresö. The Santiago de Compostela, Spain, native was named the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) Player of the Year in 2011, serving as a key member for the Philadelphia Independence during the team’s run to the league’s championship game. Boquete registered five goals and four assists in 13 matches for Philadelphia during the season.
"Verónica and Sarah will both provide the club with additional leadership and experience," Thorns FC general manager Gavin Wilkinson said. "Verónica has proved to be an impact player at every level for many years, while Sarah has been a consistently strong presence on all of the teams that she has played for during her career. We feel that both of these players will be valuable additions to Thorns FC."
Boquete has played for Russian side FC Energiya Voronezh, RCD Espanyol and Prainsa Zaragoza in the Spanish Superliga, as well as the Chicago Red Stars and Buffalo Flash during her professional career.
"We are delighted to bring one of the world’s top talents to Portland. Verónica is a fantastic footballer with an extremely high soccer IQ, tremendous work ethic and has the ability to break down any opposing defense," Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley said. "Having worked with her before, I know she can be a major influence in retaining the NWSL championship. Her personality and love of football is infectious and I'm excited to get her here and add her pedigree to our talented roster."
The captain of Spain’s Women’s National Team, Boquete has registered more than 30 international caps since her senior national team debut in 2005, helping lead the team to the quarterfinal round of the 2013 UEFA Women’s European Championship, Spain’s first berth in the tournament since 1997. Spain qualified for the tournament through a two-legged playoff series against Scotland. In the second leg in Madrid, Boquete scored the game-winning goal in the second minute of second-half stoppage time in extra time, giving Spain a 4-3 win and just its second-ever berth to the UEFA Women’s European Championship tournament.
Huffman, 30, appeared in 14 games (11 starts) for Western New York during the inaugural NWSL season in 2013. The midfielder started each of Western New York’s two playoff games, playing 72 minutes during the NWSL Championship Game against Thorns FC on Aug. 31, 2013. The first overall pick in the 2008 WPS General Draft by the Washington Freedom, Huffman played two seasons for Washington (2009, 2010) and continued to play for the club after it relocated to Florida and was renamed magicJack for the 2011 WPS season.
"I've admired Sarah for many years. She is smart and clean on the ball," Riley said. "She has excellent vision, a great professional attitude and I think she will fit into our style really well. Her positional flexibility will be a big plus for us this season."
A two-time NSCAA All-American at the University of Virginia, Huffman helped Norwegian side Røa IL capture the Toppserien league title and the Norway Women’s Cup in 2008 before playing stateside with Washington. Having gained international experience at different youth levels for the United States, Huffman earned her first international cap for the U.S. Women’s National Team on July 13, 2010, against Sweden in Omaha, Neb. The native of Flower Mound, Texas, was part of the U.S. U-19 Women’s National Team that won the championship of the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Wetzel, 25, recorded one goal and one assist in 16 games (6 starts) for Thorns FC during the 2013 NWSL season. Making the team through an open tryout prior to the inaugural season, Wetzel scored her first career NWSL goal on June 6, 2013, in a 4-3 win over FC Kansas City at Providence Park.
Williamson, 24, started all 22 regular-season matches as a defender for Thorns FC during the 2013 season. The team’s first-ever NWSL College Draft pick, the No. 8 overall selection in the 2013 NWSL College Draft from the University of Florida, Williamson finished the regular season ranked second on the team with 1,944 minutes played.
"I would like to thank Kat and Courtney for their professionalism and commitment to the Portland Thorns. They played major roles in bringing the first ever NWSL Championship to Portland," Riley said. "Their preparation for the new season was first class and Western New York will benefit substantially from their first-class attitude and competitive nature. We wish them all the best and continued success at the highest level."
Born: April 9, 1987, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Hometown: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Last Club: Tyresö FF (Sweden)
Born: March 5, 1984, in Danbury, Conn.
Hometown: Flower Mound, Texas
Last Club: Western New York Flash
College: University of Virginia
Citizenship: United States