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Morgan Brian’s Brief Stint In Chicago Is Casting A Long Shadow

Has Morgan Brian’s departure lead to an off season lull for Chicago?

2017 SheBelieves Cup - United States v Germany Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The Morgan Brian experience was 2 games and 85 minutes long and you might have missed it if you blinked. As Red Stars fans rang in the New Year, the worst kept secret in the off season was confirmed by French club juggernaut Olympique Lyonnais where they announced Morgan Brian would be joining their club having signed a contract that will keep her tied to the French side through June 2020.

When did this happen?

During the 2017 season the Chicago Red Stars made a trade with the Washington Spirit that sent their 1st round draft pick for Kristie Mewis. Chicago ended up waiving promising defender/midfielder and 2017 rookie draft pick Morgan Proffitt, who was then claimed off waivers by the Spirit.

The trade appeared to benefit the Red Stars as they found themselves on the bad end of a 3 game losing streak in the second half of the season. While playing against D.C. at a crucial point in the season, It was Mewis who scored against her former team for Chicago and help the Red Stars maintain their playoff position.

Ten days after the initial trade of Mewis to Chicago, and hours before the NWSL roster freeze deadline, Chicago announced that Morgan Brian would join the Red Stars after a trade with the Dash saw Mewis and ‘future considerations’ head to Houston.

Why did that happen?

A United States subsidized player and World Cup Champion, Brian was drafted by Houston in 2015. National Team players have their salaries covered by USSF, and while there are USWNT players on various teams in the NWSL, that essentially means their contracts with said team could be year to year with the opportunities in the current CBA. It was reported that in the new CBA (set to run through 2021) there is a mechanism that allows for players to pursue opportunities overseas.

In the weeks leading up to the trade their were rumors surrounding Morgan Brian’s interest in playing overseas and in a Q & A with the Red Stars, Dames mentions that Brian was a trade target for weeks.

After her Chicago debut against North Carolina Courage where she played 30 minutes, Brian expressed that discussions were on the back burner and was focused on the playoff push with Chicago.

So what was the point?

It all depends on whether you’re into short term results or long term results.

If you’re a fan of short term results and a pessimist, this midseason trade is a let down. Along with rumors of Morgan Brian’s eventual departure from the NWSL, the midfielder had spent a significant portion of her NWSL career struggling with lingering injuries from playing time with the National Team.

It was a trade that could’ve been perceived as high risk high reward, and with 85 minutes over two games with no championship or finals appearance, it’s hard to see the positives right now. Of the three midseason moves that took place in 2017 with Mewis, Brian, and Yuki Nagasato, it appears that Nagasato is slated to return in 2018.

If you’re a fan of the long term and an optimist, this is a trade that could still see Morgan Brian as a Red Star. After her announced departure, the Red Stars released a statement with head coach Rory Dames saying “We wish her the best of luck with Lyon, and will welcome her back as we retain her rights.” A fact that wasn’t revealed until the deal to Lyon was finalized.

Brian’s contract will take her through to June 2020, with the 2021 Olympics around the corner. The change of environment with other world class athletes could prove to be a launching pad for her to form should she decide to return to Chicago in future.

With the ever changing league from relocation of teams, to eventual expansion that leads to expansion drafts, the possibility of a player like Brian returning to Chicago in her prime could be a huge payoff - even if years away.

Now what?

If there is discouragement from mid season trades that haven’t panned out (McCaffrey, Mewis, Brian) or lack of announcements regarding the roster for 2018 - Chicago’s time to shine is right around the corner in the upcoming NWSL draft. Whether it’s utilizing selections in the current draft class, or trading for future picks, Chicago tends to make people remember who they are come draft day.