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NWSL Vibe Check: Why Maria Sanchez Moved from Houston to San Diego; Marta retires from Brazil’s national team



NWSL Vibe Check: Why Maria Sanchez Moved from Houston to San Diego;  Marta retires from Brazil's national team

The NWSL is officially five weeks into the 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 get an insider’s view and my unfiltered take on all things women’s football. There was plenty of action during the transfer window and every team is back in action for Week 6, so let’s get started! The question on everyone’s mind is of course: what exactly happened to 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 few years. The player was on their radar during the build-up as an expansion team, and again during the free agency period this offseason. The club bought the attacker in December, but she eventually signed with Houston.

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

“It’s been a tough month for me mentally. I’m excited to be here and looking forward to focusing on football,” Sánchez said during her introductory press conference. “I wish there were different rules, but in the end this is what we have… I’m lucky that everything turned out in a way that I liked… hopefully, [the rules] can change.”

Stoney went on to explain that the move for Sánchez happened quickly and the second attempt was largely handled by club officials and the player’s management team. The head coach also said that she found out on the road that the winger would be a Wave FC player just hours before their match against Orlando Pride.

There’s a little bit of everything ending well here, with Sanchez also saying in her press conference that she “thinks” she has a good reputation among former Dash coaches and players.

Houston Dash saga

As for the Houston Dash, while there were many teams active during the recent transfer window, no club received more attention than the Texas squad. If you ask the franchise player you signed to a record deal just a few months ago for a trade, it will happen. The transfer window brought a lot of attention within the club, both good and bad, in terms of the number of players entering and leaving the club.

The main focus was, of course, Sánchez. After days of will-they-won’t-they, she finally was dealt to San Diego Wave FC at the deadline 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 movements. 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 due to the player’s desire for a change of scenery. Sources also say that additional players were interested in leaving the club during the April window.

The Dash welcomed center back Paige Nielsen in a swap with Angel City FC and signed 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 12th on a 14-team table.

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

The club recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, a decade that included an inaugural Challenge Cup title and one play-off appearance in 2022. There were also eight different coaches in various positions, from full-time head coach to acting head coach and interim roll. 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 discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace. Pauw left the club in 2018 after one season, before the NWSL anti-harassment policy came into effect. Clarkson was suspended amid an allegations investigation during the 2022 season and his contract was not renewed as it expired at the end of that season.

With so many changes, there has been little chance of success, and after a decade of sub-par seasons despite top individual performances (Kealia Ohai Watt, Rachel Daly, Jane Campbell), the recent transfer window may have marked a turning point for the Dash. . That may all depend on perspective, as for others it may be a breaking point.

Marta retires from Brazil’s women’s national team

It will truly mark the end of an era for Brazilian women’s football. After playing her last World Cup in 2023, Marta announced on CNN Brazil that 2024 would be her last year playing for 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] has regarding young athletes.”

Marta’s rise to origins occurred before the age of Internet social media. She made her international debut in 2002 with the U20 team and was part of the senior team in 2003. Vague clips of her greatness are now all over the internet. Her impact on the game has been felt around the world, having played on three continents, and we were reminded of this as players continue to pay tribute to her.

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

Brazilian manager Arthur Elias has rotated the player pool a lot during his time with the national team. Although Marta was not named in the Concacaf W Gold Cup squad, he did call her up for the SheBelieves Cup, along with veteran teammate Cristiane. Still, making an Olympic roster is a challenge as only sixteen outfield players are typically chosen, along with two goalkeepers.

“If I go to the Olympic Games, I will enjoy every moment because whether I go to the Olympic Games or not, this is my last year with the national team. From 2025, Marta will no longer be in the national team.” she said.

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