Independence trade Heather Mitts to Atlanta

One of the most popular players in recent years on the Philadelphia soccer scene, Heather Mitts, has left town again.

I've been told that the Atlanta Beat acquired Mitts from the Independence on Friday, in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2012 draft. Mitts played for the Independence for one season, and for the Charge from 2001 to 2003. The trade took place after the WPS draft concluded.

I phrased that last paragraph in a very particular way, because the Beat's press release announcing the deal made no mention of any trade having taken place. It simply stated that the Beat had acquired Mitts, and made it sound like they did so without giving anything up.

But I knew Mitts was supposed to be under contract with the Independence, so unless something changed with Mitts' contract she could not have moved as a free agent.

That led me to wonder aloud on Twitter just how the deal got done. Thankfully, hawk-eyed soccer scribe Jeff Kassouf tweeted back at me that the signing was in fact a trade. Jeff is one of one of the most connected women's soccer writers in the country, so I have no doubt about his sources.

Those of you with sharp memories may recall that Mitts was officially listed as being under contract with the Independence for 2011 back in October. Mitts was made available for the Western New York Flash's expansion draft, and all players put in the draft pool had to be under contract with their current clubs. Mitts was not selected, so she remained under contract with Philadelphia.

Mitts was again listed as being under contract with the Independence in a press release published on December 9. That was when the team announced the dates of its first matches in 2011, as well as its preseason training schedule.

But the plot turned on Thursday, when the U.S. Soccer Federation announced the women's national team roster for the Four Nations Tournament. Mitts was listed as "out of contract," which caused confusion for quite a few observers. 

The other three "out of contract" players - goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, defender Christie Rampone and midfielder Lindsay Tarpley - were designated as free agents when the expansion draft player lists were published. That made sense, but Mitts' designation did not.

Now it seems that the matter has been resolved, but the lack of information out there isn't very helpful for media members or fans. Hopefully we'll learn more about the move this week.

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