NWSL: Maria Sanchez reportedly wants out of Houston Dash, where are the best landing spots for the winger?

Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez, El Bombi, has reportedly requested to be traded just four months after signing a historic contract. The Mexican international signed a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year, reportedly worth $1.5 million, back in December, but has since asked to be traded just four weeks into the season. The bombshell news was dropped Sunday night by ESPN, a day after Houston’s most recent loss to Washington Spirit. 

Her contract’s reported worth, at the time, made her the highest-paid player in the league. Other contracts have since surpassed hers, but it still remains an earmark contract in the league. Further complicating things between franchise and player is the impending trade window and her contract status. Sanchez signed the contract as a restricted free agent and is signed with the NWSL instead of the Dash, so her contract would have to be absorbed by any other interested NWSL club.

When asked for a comment, a Houston Dash spokesperson told ESPN; “Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023.”

So, is there enough time for a move to happen and will there be a willing trade partner out there? Each NWSL club has full rosters and their own limitations. While the salary cap rose again this season — $2,750,000 per team, up almost 40% from $1,375,000 — there is no public data for how clubs run their payroll, and whether or not they could sustain a contract of Sanchez’s size.

The inconvenient truth is that the more time ticks away, the less likely a deal will happen, and the possibility of an unhappy franchise player could be a more likely scenario until both sides can revisit a potential deal in the summer. 

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some potential landing spots that could be a good fit for the winger: 

Seattle Reign FC

They had a complex offseason where players left via free agency while navigating the sale of their franchise. Still, they brought much of their 2023 NWSL Championship runners-up roster back and added South Korean international  So-Yun Ji to help put opposing defenses on skates. They also recently signed outside back Sofia Huerta to a new contract extension. 

The Pacific Northwest side hasn’t got off to the start they were anticipating and haven’t quite hit their stride in attacking sequences. It’s been a mixed bag of results where they have shown they can attack in waves and periods where they stifle play and slow down the tempo. The proximity to Sanchez’s home state in Idaho could be a selling point, and the club could always get a bump of praise from a fellow Idahoan in Huerta. It is early days in the regular season, but a move for Sanchez could open things up in the final third for them. 

Angel City FC

The franchise would have to ask some hard questions of themselves if they were to make a move for Sanchez. They lost Jun Endo to an ACL injury ahead of the season and Christen Press is still working her way back from her ACL rehab. They added young players in the offseason via the Under-18 mechanism with Gisele Thompson and Casey Phair, perhaps as longer-term projects, and then added midfielder Rocky Rodriguez and forward Messiah Bright. 

They’ve struggled to generate offense in the opening phase of the season and adding a creative winger to the mix could hardly hurt their attack. The club is in the same boat as everyone else with a full roster, so who would be moved if they do want to negotiate? There’s a long schedule ahead of them, and this is still the same franchise that waited half a season to make a coaching change last season, so maybe it’s more of “not yet” instead of a hard no for Angel City at the moment.

Utah Royals FC

The expansion franchise hasn’t left its mark on the league just yet. Rookie Ally Sentnor has been a bright spot, but this is a club that still hasn’t quite established its team identity.

Another club with proximity to Idaho could be part of the pitch to lure the player, but what would Utah offer in return to a Houston side that is essentially moving a franchise player? A bonafide winger with a strong left foot and league experience could be something that turns heads in Utah, and the Royals are early enough in their newly reborn history that they could make a high-risk high reward type of move. 

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