Portland’s Elizabeth Ball coming to Utah Royals as club makes Becky Sauerbrunn trade official

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals host Orlando Pride at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Wednesday May 9, 2018. Orlando Pride forward Sydney Leroux (2) and Utah Royals FC defender Becky Sauerbrunn (4).

The best defender in the National Women’s Soccer League, who spent the last two seasons with the Utah Royals FC, officially has a new home.

The club announced Tuesday that Sauerbrunn is headed to the Portland Thorns in exchange for $100,000 in guaranteed allocation money and center back Elizabeth Ball. Utah will receive an additional $50,000 in allocation money if certain requirements are met. Those requirements were not disclosed.

Sauerbrunn, 34, requested the trade. She lives in Portland during the offseason with her significant other and has spent her entire professional career in other cities. The club wanted to give her the opportunity to spend the remaining years of her career closer to home.

“I’m at that point in my career where I want to be home,” Sauerbrunn said in a prerecorded message to fans. She said upon her move to Utah, she discussed with upper management a desire to make a move should the opportunity present itself.

“We are so thankful for her contributions as part of the team and community, and we are happy we can grant her request to be home in a way that allows us to utilize resources in other avenues to better the team,” Royals general manager Stephanie Lee said in a statement.

Ball is 24 years old and has started 14 of 23 games with Portland since 2018. She played college soccer at Penn State, where she scored nine goals and tallied three assists in 95 appearances (92 starts).

Ball’s acquisition falls in line with the club’s recent focus on developing younger players. The Virginia native has experience playing for the under-23 contingent of the U.S. Women’s National Team and is entering just her third year in the NWSL.

“Elizabeth offers us real defending adaptability and options,” Royals coach Craig Harrington said. “She has shown in the past that she can play a variety of positions and her versatility allows us to be flexible to a lot of formations.”

Utah’s trade of Sauerbrunn is the second involving the club that incorporated allocation money. The Royals sent $60,000 to the Chicago Red Stars to acquire the No. 8 overall pick in the NWSL College Draft last month. That pick became Tziarra King.

The Royals now theoretically have $340,000 in allocation money after making the Sauerbrunn deal. The NWSL gave $300,000 of it to every team when the new roster rules were announced in the offseason.

Utah expects to make more moves before the start of the 2020 NWSL season. The allocation money from trading Sauerbrunn allows the club to seek out perhaps three or four players from overseas.