Spirit Trades Star Players Ashley Sanchez and Sam Staab in Blockbuster Deals, Bolster Roster with Four First-Round Picks

Washington, D.C., – The Washington Spirit made significant moves in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft, acquiring top college talent but bidding farewell to two key players. After a productive week of offseason announcements, the Spirit came out of the draft with four first-round picks, the most among the 14 teams. However, these additions came at the cost of star midfielder Ashley Sanchez and defensive stalwart Sam Staab.

In a series of blockbuster trades, the Spirit sent Sanchez to the North Carolina Courage in exchange for the No. 5 pick and $250,000 in allocation money. Additionally, they dealt Staab to the Chicago Red Stars in return for the No. 3 selection. These moves allowed Washington to assemble a strong draft class with selections that included midfielders Croix Bethune and Hal Hershfelt, defender Kate Wiesner, and defender Makenna Morris.

Sanchez, a standout attacking midfielder, was an integral part of the Spirit’s team, bringing her skill set and electric footwork to the field. With 27 appearances for the U.S. national team and a spot on the World Cup roster in 2023, the 24-year-old showcased her exceptional talent. General Manager Mark Krikorian expressed gratitude for Sanchez’s contributions and wished her success in her next career move.

Staab, who joined the Spirit as the No. 4 pick in the 2019 draft, emerged as a reliable presence on the team’s defense. She achieved an NWSL record with 90 consecutive regular season starts and earned Best XI honors in 2023. Krikorian acknowledged Staab’s defensive abilities, describing her as an unsung hero for the team and expressing the organization’s well wishes for her future career.

The addition of Bethune, the Spirit’s highest pick since selecting Trinity Rodman in 2021, brings a promising and creative prospect to the midfield. Furthermore, Morris, a native of Germantown, Maryland, brings local talent to the team. The Spirit also secured Arkansas forward Anna Podojil and Utah midfielder Courtney Brown in later rounds.

The draft’s first two picks went to the expansion teams, with Utah selecting Ally Sentnor and Bay FC choosing Savy King. Other notable selections included Florida State’s Lauren Flynn and Penn State’s Ellie Wheeler.

These moves come in the midst of an eventful week for the Spirit, who recently hired Jonatan Giráldez as their new coach and signed U.S. national team defender Casey Krueger. The NWSL plans to release its regular season schedule soon, with a full rebranding scheduled for next year. The league also aims to add two expansion teams in 2026 in Boston and another location yet to be determined. The salary cap for this offseason has increased to $2.75 million, a 40 percent rise from the previous season.