The Washington Spirit concluded their regular season campaign in last place of the inaugural NWSL season with a 3-14-5 record. Despite being the first ousted club last season, Washington demonstrated their unrelenting fighting spirit until the final whistle was blown on August 18, 2013.
To say the Spirit had a rocky season would be an understatement. With fourteen losses under their belt, the Maryland club only managed to log three wins, but two consecutive wins in the final month of regular season play, shutting out Chicago and Seattle. However, with the Spirit, the glass is always half full. The double digit losses do not reflect the attitudes of the players that walked onto the field every week. The score lines were hard fought but the Spirit never gave up. Their defense conceded 39 goals but none of the remaining seven clubs showed as much heart for the game to never throw in the towel before the 90 minutes were called.
Washington should be commended for their motivation on the field but unfortunately, this passion did not prove beneficial when it mattered most, advancing to the post season. The Washington Spirit suffered several shake-ups not only to their roster but to their management. The Spirit replaced Head Coach Mike Jordan, in favor of Mark Parsons, the teams Head Coach for the reserves squad. This was a brilliant move because the Spirit appeared to adopt a sharper focus and technical skill on the ball following the addition of Parsons. The first game with Parsons at the helm would see the Spirit host the heavyweights, FC Kansas City, who at the time, were riding a three game unbeaten streak. The Spirit tied Kansas 1-1, following a last ditched effort by Tiffany McCarty who earned a penalty kick in the 85th minute and was converted by Diana Matheson. Kansas had trouble breaking down the Spirits midfield in the first half, unable to score until the 54th minute. Under Parson’s guidance, the Spirit scored more frequently for the remainder of the season and survived their toughest month yet. In the month of July they were scheduled for seven games, nearly double the amount of matches than any other month that season.
Speaking of Matheson, she remains one of the strongest players that the Spirit have going into the next season. She is the team’s leading scorer and helped pick up the slack of the back four while also maintaining an offensive mind-set when the team’s forwards couldn’t control the ball. One of the Spirits largest problems last season was the disorganized attack and the late-to-respond defense. Luckily, Matheson alongside Lori Lindsey helped balance this out as much as possible.
It is a shame that Matheson had to overload her duties on the field because the Spirit actually had some sparkling talent up front but might not have spent enough time improving their skills. Recently, Stephanie Ochs was drafted to the Houston Dash alongside Tiffany McCarty but as a Spirit, Ochs was agile and talented on the ball but it seemed that a lot of the time her partner up front struggled to connect with her. This might be because the only forwards the Spirit enlisted were inexperienced players on a professional level. Caroline Miller lifted many of the Washington fans hopes but unfortunately an injury took her out of the game late into the season. Next to Miller was the youngster McCarty who spent the most time on the field up top but failed to score even a fraction of Matheson’s tally. This is disappointing considering that McCarty’s job is to score goals while Matheson’s job is primarily to link passes with the forwards.
It became obvious that not enough training was being set aside for the forwards because using an excuse such as they were rookies is weak. Granted, they were rookies last season but McCarty and Miller were both MAC Hermann trophy finalists and broke records with their scoring talent at their respective colleges.
Lastly, the Spirit’s 2013 season would not be complete without the goal stopping heroics of Ashlyn Harris. Yes, the Spirit conceded the most goals but at the end of the season, Harris made 85 saves in 18 games, placing her third only to NWSL champion Karina LeBlanc and second place victor, Adrianne Franch. Statistically, Harris did a fantastic job between the posts and will hopefully have more communication with her back four next season so that she can record more than two shutouts.
Onwards and Upwards
Luckily for Spirit fans, Parsons is here to stay after having his interim coach title removed and promoted to Head Coach and General Manager of the Spirit. Considering that he now has more time to develop a tremendous team that will work well together and more importantly communicate on the field. His vision is slowly being pieced together as it was recently announced that the Spirit have acquired two U.S. NT players, Crystal Dunn and Yael Averbuch. These are interesting picks and it’s slightly obvious where Parsons is looking to place them on the field.
Dunn is a guaranteed starter in the back four alongside Ali Krieger, Robyn Gayle and Toni Pressley. Placing Dunn in the midfield is not the best idea because without Dunn, the back four remain the same from last season. This means that Washington risks conceding another 39 goals. However, Dunn could be the Washington Spirit’s version of a Kelley O’Hara. She could be the next hybrid to play two positions depending on the opposing team the Spirit will face that week. For tougher teams like WNYFlash or FCKC, Dunn would be great as a defender. For lesson competitive teams such as Chicago or Boston who lack strong defense, Dunn would be perfect as an outside midfielder.
So, on the one hand, to place Dunn in the midfield is futile because the midfield is already packed with talented players such as Matheson, Lindsey and Christine Nairn. Not to mention, Averbuch who possesses a taller stature than her midfield comrades. This is a valuable commodity when playing against vertically gifted teams such as the WNYFlash. Averbuch has the ability to win 50/50 balls in the air while Dunn is more suited to play in the back four, possibly keeping her left back position.
The regular season roster has yet to be finalized but it is concerning why Parsons has overloaded his recent picks with forwards and not taken the time to split it up evenly with forwards and defenders joining the ranks. Think of it this way, Gayle, Krieger and Dunn are all NT players that can be called away for National Team matches during the season. This means that Parson’s needs a strong reserve of defenders because many teams like Portland and Sky Blue do just fine without their NT players.
Judging by the college draft, aside from Dunn, Washington only chose two other players, Molly Menchel (D) (decided not to play this season) and Shasta Fisher (M). Fisher will face a tough time finding minutes on the field now that the Spirit have acquired Dunn (D), Nairn (M) and Averbuch (M).
Much of the focus was placed on the forwards. Parsons added Tiffany Weimer, Danesha Adams, Renae Cuellar and Jodie Taylor. These are great strikers with a plethora of experience on an international level but the best pick was Jodie Taylor. Taylor is an English footballer who has played in Canada, U.S., England, Australia and Sweden. She has demonstrated that she can score on any team she is placed, which makes her a safe bet for a starter position up front.
Playing alongside Taylor, it would be easy to imagine Cuellar or D. Adams. In terms of goal scoring abilities, Cuellar is the best option because of her record with FC Kansas City, scoring five goals in eleven appearances. In terms of handling and linking the ball up top, the best option is Adams. The former Sky Blue FC forward had a good but not great season with the New Jersey club. Adams started the season on a high note, netting three goals with the last goal finding the back of the net in early June. This is a bit worrisome but hopefully something that she has improved upon during her time abroad playing for the Atasehir Belediyespor in the Turkish Women’s League.
It is unlikely that the Spirit will make many changes to their now tentative roster during the preseason but at least this roster has provided fans with an insight into the areas Parson’s is targeting to improve and has done a very good job fixing the problem areas from last year. Finally, Spirit fans can rest easy because it looks like Washington is gearing up for an exciting and competitive season and a spot in the post-season.
Original Link: http://www.girlsontheball.com/?page_id=12742
I hope I am wrong and that this back line is awesome but it’s just a bit weird that Sermanni would choose to start Cox … she hasn’t been that great this tournament or in any of the international friendlies earlier this year.
I think he will only make subs early in the second half, but hopefully US will score an early goal now that Leroux is back and Press is starting! lol
Granted the game hasn’t started yet and I haven’t seen how the back four plays against Denmark but so far, this isn’t the greatest defense that Sermanni could have assembled. Just saying.
Rampone and Engen are superb but Klingenberg and Cox aren’t the strongest.
Would have been better if he added Krieger and O’Hara alongside Engen and Rampone and then for the second half subbed Broon in for Rampone or Engen
Match Date: Sunday August 18 2013
Time: 5:00 PM ET or 2:00 PM PT
Venue: Maryland Soccerplex, Boyds, MD
Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaVORkGIWIY
Sky Blue nearly clinched three points last week until a late equalizer in overtime from Jackie Santacaterina left the New Jersey club still fighting for sole possession in the top four. This week, Sky Blue might have some relief in their starting XI if Danesha Adams and Lisa De Vanna’s injuries have improved. Both strikers are currently listed as probable alongside Nayeli Rangel.
This week, Sky Blue competes against a team that has risen from the bottom. The Washington Spirit have recorded two consecutive wins but lost 1-0 to Sky Blue early in August. The Spirit are fighting fit while Sky Blue is gradually getting back into form. This season finale is one that should not be missed as it could end in the Spirit concluding their season on a high with three consecutive wins and preventing Sky Blue from gaining sole possession of second place. In addition, Sky Blue might have their best chance to gain a lead in the top four.
The Spirit are strong defensively but still struggle offensively. Lupita Worbis and Diana Matheson scored the Spirit’s game winners this month but the teams goals for record is the lowest in the league with fifteen goals. Washington needs to overcome their former statistics if they wish to defeat Sky Blue, the team that has defeated them three times this season.
This season finale is unpredictable because Sky Blue struggle offensively when Monica Ocampo is not on the field. It is unlikely that Ocampo will not start but she might have some difficulty manevouring around the Spirit defense. Washington’s midfield is not as strong but could still push the Sky Blue offense at bay, leaving Sophie Schmidt frustrated.
When Schmidt gets frustrated she usually finds more pockets for her teammates up front. Offensively, Sky Blue will rely on Ocampo, Schmidt and Freels to find the back of the net while Manya Makoski and Taylor Lytle push the ball forward.
Washington Spirit – Candace Chapman, Caroline Miller, Toni Pressley and Colleen Williams
Sky Blue FC – Brittany Bock, Caitlin Foord and Kelley O’Hara