Each day leading up to the start of the season, we’ll take a look at what 2017 has in store for two teams.
Thursday: Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage
Friday: Portland Thorns FC and Orlando Pride
The 2017 offseason was one of change for the Washington Spirit marked by several high-profile departures. The club enjoyed the best season in its history in 2016 on the back of a consistent performance in nearly all areas of the game exemplified by their impressive away record that was tied for the best in the league. Being able to replicate that success will be a tall order for the Spirit who will be hoping to become the first team in league history to make the NWSL Playoffs in four consecutive seasons.
2016 totals (with rank)
Overall record: 12-5-3, 39 pts (2nd place)
Goals for: 30 (3rd)
Goals against: 21 (tied for 4th)
Home record: 7-1-2 (2nd)
Away record: 5-4-1 (tied for 1st)
Shelina Zadorsky (11 appearances, 911 minutes)
Joanna Lohman (4 goals, assist)
Tori Huster (19 appearances, 1,665 minutes)
Francisca Ordega (2 goals, assist)
Perhaps lost in the offseason departure of so many high-profile players were the players who remain for the Spirit. Canada international Shelina Zadorsky as well as goalkeepers Kelsey Wys and Stephanie Labbé are all back from a defensive unit that allowed the fewest goals at home in the league last year.
Washington also returns midfielders Tori Huster and Joanna Lohman – who ranked first and third, respectively, in minutes played on the Spirit last year as the club enjoyed the best season in its history with a second-place finish during the regular-season and an appearance in the NWSL Championship Game.
That appearance in the 2016 title tilt would not have been possible without a goal in extra time in the NWSL semifinals from forward Francisca Ordega. The Nigeria international’s 111th minute goal against the Chicago Red Stars handed Washington their first playoff win and the Spirit will need her to do more of the same this year as the team looks to their existing players to take on expanded roles.
Kristie Mewis (Goal, assist)
Kassey Kallman (20 appearances, 1,800 minutes)
Havana Solaun (6 appearances, 272 minutes)
The Spirit acquired midfielder Kristie Mewis and defender Kassey Kallman from the Boston Breakers in a trade that sent Megan Oyster in the opposite direction. Mewis experienced a down year from a scoring perspective, but Washington will be hoping she can recapture the form that saw her post six goals and two assists in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Spirit have brought in Kallman as a replacement for Oyster and will want to see the same level of consistency and determination she showed last season when she played every minute of the 2016 campaign.
Coach Jim Gabarra also added midfielder Havana Solaun from Seattle in a trade that sent Canada international Diana Matheson (now out for the season with an ACL injury) to the Reign. Solaun had one goal in six appearances and has been included in the U.S. youth national teams at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels.
Round 2, No. 19 overall: Lindsay Agnew (F, Ohio State)
Round 3, No. 29 overall: Meggie Dougherty-Howard (M, Florida)
Round 4, No. 36 overall: Cameron Castleberry (M, North Carolina)
Possibly no other draft class in the league will have a better opportunity to impress this season as Washington’s offseason departures have opened the door for Spirit draft picks Lindsay Agnew, Meggie Dougherty-Howard and Cameron Castleberry.
Washington selected Agnew with the No. 19 overall pick and while few players could conceivably come in as a plausible replacement for Crystal Dunn, the Spirit will be looking for the forward to come in and make an impact as the team attempts a collective effort to replicate the former NWSL MVP’s production.
Likewise, with the departures of Christine Nairn and Diana Matheson, Spirit fans can expect that midfielders Dougherty-Howard and Castleberry will get the chance to make an impression on the field.