Croix Bethune drafted by the Spirit — Signing and roster movement updates

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Jan. 22, 2024

When Croix Bethune was just three, her family moved to England and she fell in love with soccer. Her love of the game came with challenges because there were no girls’ teams for her at that age, so she played with the boys — something she said this week was the foundation of her style. By grade school, she had decided that she wanted a career in soccer.

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“So I was playing with boys and I feel like that really helped shape my skill and the fun for the game early, since boys do play a lot quicker and more physical. Coming back, I feel like I was kind of a couple steps ahead mentally with the game than girls at the time,” she said.

The Washington Spirit obliged her career wish when they took her with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. The diminutive 5’3 midfielder last played at Georgia as a graduate student after four years at USC.

Bethune was always hoping this was where soccer would led her.

“Just seeing how soccer was completely different in England in the culture and how big it is everywhere, I feel like that has really inspired me to be like, ‘This is what I want to do with my life,'” she said. “When we were in elementary school, kids always got asked, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ And on those little pieces of paper, I can just remember writing [that] I want to be a professional athlete. So to write your dreams out and then manifest them over years and for it to come true, it’s just something amazing to see and be able to make happen.”

Bethune only played in 15 games for the Bulldogs, but her impact helped send the team to its first-ever appearance in the SEC tournament final. She was named the tournament MVP. Overall, she scored or assisted on five goals in the postseason.

Bethune, who trained with the USWNT in the run-up to the CONCACAF W Championship in 2022, was intentional about her season with the Bulldogs, aiming to set herself up for a professional career.

“For me, I want to bring energy and consistency. This past year for me was my grad year. So I really focused on professionalism,” she said. “And now being a pro just to implement that, whether that’s on the field or off the field, training rooms, rehab, you know, all the little details.”

The Spirit added six players in the draft, four in the first round alone. The team was able to trade up to get Bethune, acquiring the pick in a trade with Chicago for Sam Staab. The Spirit then traded Ashley Sanchez to the North Carolina Courage for the fifth pick, which the team used to take Hal Hershfelt out of Clemson.

With the seventh overall pick, the Spirit took Kate Wiesner out of Penn State and with No. 13 they took another Clemson player, Makenna Morris. The final two selections were Anna Podojil of Arkansas (35) and Courtney Brown of Utah (49).

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The Spirit are clearly remaking the team after finishing 7-6-6 and outside of the playoffs for the second straight season. The biggest change comes at the helm with the hiring of Barcelona women’s coach Jonatan Giráldez, who won’t join the Spirit until after the Liga F season. Girládez was a finalist for FIFA Best Coach of the Year honors after leading Barcelona to the Champions League title last year.

While the decision to trade Ashley Sanchez was a surprise, even to her, the Spirit now have a big group of talented prospects to go with stars like Trinity Rodman, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Hatch and Casey Krueger.

Bethune said she delights in a “cheeky” style of play she’ll bring to the Spirit.

“I would say creative,” she said about her style. “Just bringing some flair and fun to the game. Cheeky.”

News and important links

There were a couple of newsy items from last week. But honestly, it feels like there’s no slow weeks anymore:

Sam Mewis retired from soccer. I think many people knew this was coming, but a gut-punch nonetheless. The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter had some her numbers. But so much of what Mewis did wasn’t quantifiable. Her 6’0 presence in the midfield was daunting for opponents. Off the field she was charming and funny, something that will serve her well in her new endeavor with the Men in Blazers network.

Another big one: Mallory Swanson signed a record contract with the Chicago Red Stars. Kudos to Sandra Herrera for getting the financial terms of the deal.

Big trade this morning with Taylor Kornieck Flint going to Racing Louisville. San Diego received $150,000 in exchange. The Equalizer was all over it.

And finally, the Portland Thorns announced that they have signed Christine Sinclair. Portland also got Meghan Klingenberg signed so that’s progress. Now that the ownership issue has been settled the roster should fall in line.

Laura Harvey is committed to the Reign, honored she’s mentioned for Chelsea job Pro Soccer Wire’s Seth Vertelney

Arin Wright is heading home to Kentucky

Meg Linehan’s story on Mewis The Athletic

Gotham opens the superteam era CBS Sports

Casey Phair’s rise, from the World Cup to Angel City Jess Kassouf for ESPN

Ashley Sanchez was shocked by trade to the Courage

Former Timbers/Thorns executive Gavin Wilkinson was hired, then dismissed amid outcry Sporting Kansas City

Laura Harvey defends the NWSL as the top league in the world

Bay FC unveils brand campaign

Jayda Evans with the Seattle Times says the loss of Lavelle and Sonnett isn’t a crushing blow for the Reign

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf looks at the new NWSL rule that allows for five-year contracts

Great story here from Linehan on Vlatko Andonovski finding his love for the game again

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Coach Bev Yanez assessed Racing Louisville’s draft as well as the acquisition of Arin Wright. The signings she referred to may be Colombian Elexa Bahr and South Africa’s Linda Motlhalo, both signed last week. Or maybe the Kornieck Flint news.  

Written by Annie Peterson