Washington Spirit

SEASON PREVIEW: Washington Spirit

Washington Spirit

After struggling during the inaugural NWSL season, Washington Spirit head coach Mark Parsons has added experience and depth to the team’s roster.

Ashlyn Harris and Chantel Jones both return to the club where the two faced a combined 314 shots last season, the most in the league. Harris, the team’s starting goalkeeper, played in 18 of the team’s matches last season. Facing 259 shots, Harris made 85 saves and conceded 33 goals.

Jones saw playing time in four games, encountered 55 shots—saving 15—and let in six goals. Both Harris and Jones clocked in one shutout each during the season.

This season, Parsons has brought in Adelaide Gay as a third goalkeeping option. Gay was last signed to the Portland Thorns, where she was an unused substitute in the 2013 season. Prior to her season with the Thorns, Gay served as a goalkeeper for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, where she conceded just 16 goals during her time in Chapel Hill.

Defenders Tori Huster, Ali Krieger, Toni Pressley and Robyn Gayle have also returned to the team. Cecilie Sandvej, Crystal Dunn and Bianca Sierra will join the back line this season.

Sandvej, who made her international debut for Denmark in 2009, last played for Perth Glory of Australia’s W-League. Prior to playing in Australia, Sandvej played for Brøndby IF in Denmark’s Elitedivisionen, with the team winning three consecutive titles. Sandvej also won the Danish Women’s Cup in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Dunn, a Tar Heel standout and winner of the 2012 Hermann Trophy, is a versatile player Parsons can use in numerous positions on the field. She finished her collegiate career with 31 goals, 25 assists and an NCAA Championship.

Dunn has also received eight caps with the U.S. women’s national team, where she has been featured on the team’s back line.

Sierra, who played in 85 matches for the Auburn Tigers, was not drafted in the 2014 NWSL College Draft, but made her way onto the team through tryouts. The defender scored five goals and added seven assists during her college campaign and received her first Mexican women’s national team call-up in 2013. She has since made five appearances.

The Spirit was allocated midfielder Yael Averbuch in early 2014. Averbuch has 26 caps and one goal with the U.S. women’s national team and last played in Sweden for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC of the Swedish Damallsvenskan. With the Spirit scoring just 16 goals and conceding 39 last season, Averbuch’s ability to focus on possession could prove to be immense for the team.

Midfielders Veronica Perez and Christine Nairn, who played in the NWSL last season for the Western New York Flash and Seattle Reign, respectively, have also made moves to the Spirit.

Nairn had five assists and three goals (including two game-winners) in 22 matches during her rookie season with the Reign. Perez, who earned 11 starts in 22 matches with the Flash, added in one goal and one assist for last year’s regular season champions.

Perez has also been a member of the Mexican women’s national team since 2010 and notably scored the game-winner in the 2010 CONCACAF FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament against the United States.

Joining Perez, Nairn and Averbuch in midfield is Jordan Angeli, who was selected by the Spirit in the 2013 Supplemental Draft, but didn’t play due to recovering from a knee injury.

Up top, four new players have joined the Spirit: Danesha Adams, Tiffany Weimer, Renae Cuellar and Jodie Taylor.

Taylor is the only newcomer to the NWSL, having previously played for Sydney FC of the W-League, where she scored 12 goals in 12 appearances. Taylor was acquired by the Spirit from a trade with the Reign in October and has recently received a call-up to the England women’s national team.

Adams last played for Sky Blue FC, where she was fourth on the team in goals (3) and had one game-winner. She also added in three assists in the 20 matches she played for the team.

Weimer was forced to take a cross-country move, previously playing for last year’s champions, the Portland Thorns. Clocking in 522 minutes, Weimer played in 10 games (five of which were starts) and added in one goal and one assist.

Cuellar began the inaugural NWSL season playing for FC Kansas City, where she scored five goals for the Blues in 11 games. On July 1, the Mexican international was traded to Seattle. Under head coach Laura Harvey, Cuellar saw time in seven matches but couldn’t put away any of her 27 shots.

In October, the 23-year-old, who served as an alternate player for Mexico in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, was traded to the Spirit.

Also returning to the Spirit is last season’s leading scorer, Diana Matheson. The Canadian international was one of the team’s few bright spots last season, having notched in eight goals and three assists in 19 matches.

This weekend, the Spirit will host the Western New York Flash at the Maryland SoccerPlex. After squaring off four times last season—with the Spirit earning just one point and having been shut out in three matches—the newly revamped squad will look to take revenge on the Flash with the team’s newly-acquired depth.

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