The Washington Spirit have some rebuilding to do going into the 2014 season.
The club finished at the bottom of the table in 2013 following a 13-game winless streak that spanned from May 19-August 3. The Spirit struggled to find the back of the net, particularly in the run of play. They struggled to keep the ball out of their own net as well.
The Spirit were allocated some offensive spark in U.S. midfielder Yael Averbuch and Mexican forward Renae Cuellar. Cuellar was acquired in a trade on Oct. 25 from the Seattle Reign. She started the 2013 season with FC Kansas City where she made NWSL history by scoring the first goal in league history. Cuellar tallied five goals in 11 matches before she was traded to the Reign.
Averbuch returns following a two year stint in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan. She played the 2013 season with Goteborg FC where she made 15 starts in 16 appearances and scored seven times. The Upper Montclair, N.J. native is a possession-minded midfielder and the Spirit will look to her and Cuellar to help jumpstart an offense that scored just 16 goals last year.
U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and defender Ali Krieger both return from an offseason stint with Swedish side Tyreso where they helped the club to the Champions League quarterfinals. Harris had arthroscopic knee surgery in early December but was called into January’s U.S. Women’s national team camp from Jan. 8-15.
Washington retained both of its Canadian allocations in midfielder Diana Matheson and defender Robyn Gayle. Gayle is looking forward to what 2014 has to offer and she and Krieger will look to help improve the backline that allowed a league-worst 39 goals on the year. Matheson scored a team-leading eight goals during 2013, including four from the penalty spot.
An expansion draft will take place next week, reportedly on Jan. 10. Each club will be allowed to protect two of three U.S. allocations, with the third going into the Expansion draft where the Dash will select their remaining two U.S. allocations.
Expansion draft: This is difficult. Averbuch adds a possession style midfielder as well as size in the center of the park. Harris was hampered with a knee injury last season, hence the offseason surgery, but still played in 18 matches. Krieger also played in 18 matches after being sidelined by a concussion on July 14. I’d say Krieger is likely to be protected and I’m not sure which Tar Heel would be left for the expansion pool. German ‘keeper Nadine Angerer is slated to sign with a NWSL club. If it’s Washington, we could see Harris head into the expansion pool for Houston.