After finishing in last place in 2017, the Washington Spirit retooled their team in the offseason. Andi Sullivan and Rebecca Quinn were picked with two of the top three picks in the 2018 NWSL College Draft. Key players like Ashley Hatch and Taylor Smith joined in trades — and Rose Lavelle was acquired in January’s dispersal draft.
Now they are a young team looking to make it back to the playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time since 2013.
They kick off their season on March 24 on the road vs. Seattle Reign FC and then welcome the Orlando Pride to town for their home opener on March 31.
Head coach: Jim Gabarra
Home stadium: Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex
Aubrey Bledsoe, goalkeeper
Ashley Hatch, forward
Rose Lavelle, midfielder
Rebecca Quinn, defender
Taylor Smith, defender
Andi Sullivan, midfielderKey Departures
Stephanie Labbé, goalkeeper
Shelina Zadorsky, defender
The Spirit made a number of offseason moves to bolster their roster and build around young players like forward Mallory Pugh and midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard, both of whom had solid rookie seasons.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Ashley Hatch and defender Taylor Smith joined the team in the blockbuster trade that sent the rights to Crystal Dunn to North Carolina.
Midfielder Rose Lavelle, who is still working her way back to full fitness following a hamstring injury, was selected in the dispersal draft after the Boston Breakers ceased operations. The Spirit traded up to get her and, when healthy, she and Andi Sullivan will hold down the midfield in Washington.
The Spirit traded Shelina Zadorsky to the Pride in exchange for Aubrey Bledsoe, who will fill the need in goal following Stephanie Labbé’s departure.
Rookie forward Arielle Ship, who scored a goal and two assists in her rookie season, tore her ACL at the end of last season. Forward Cheyna (Williams) Matthews will miss the 2018 season due to pregnancy. She was second on the team in 2017 with five goals.
By the Numbers
2017: 5-15-4, 10th place (Home: 3-7-2; Away: 2-8-2)
30 goals for (7th in the NWSL), 48 goals against (9th)
Midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard was a presence in midfield for the Spirit in 2017. In 23 appearances, she created 37 chances, best on the team. She also led all offensive players on the team with a 76.19% passing accuracy (minimum 500 completed passes). In just 16 games, Mallory Pugh created 25 chances to go along with her team-leading six goals.
New addition Ashley Hatch tied a rookie record with seven goals in her first professional season as a member of the Courage. She’ll join Pugh at forward this season.
On the defensive side of the ball Estelle Johnson was first on the team with 39 tackles won. Whitney Church led the way in blocks with 18. Shelina Zadorsky, now with the Pride, was the 2017 leader in defensive clearances (101), but Church and Johnson were No. 2 and No. 3 with 81 and 74, respectively.
New goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe started 11 games for the Pride last season, making 30 saves (70% save percentage).
Head Coach Jim Gabarra:
Games to Watch
Seattle Reign FC vs. Washington Spirit
Saturday, March 24 | go90 | 10 p.m. ET
The Spirit went 0-2 vs. the Reign last season and will be looking to turn things around in their 2018 season opener. Their first meeting, a 6-2 loss in Seattle where Reign forward Nahomi Kawasumi recorded a league record four assists. Their second, a 3-2 loss at home to end the season. The Spirit led 2-0 in the 71st minute, but conceded goals to Jess Fishlock (twice) and Larissa Crummer and lost the game.
Washington Spirit vs. North Carolina Courage
Saturday, April 14 | go90 | 7 p.m. ET
New North Carolina Courage forward Crystal Dunn won the NWSL MVP trophy in 2015 during her time with the Spirit. They welcome her back to the Maryland SoccerPlex in their second home game of the year.Washington Spirit vs. Sky Blue FC
Wednesday, May 23 | g090 | 7:30 p.m. ET
The Spirit had Sky Blue FC’s number last season with more than half of their season wins coming against Sky Blue. Washington went 3-0-0 against their New Jersey rivals, outscoring them 10-5 in the games.
January 23: Long-term plan paying off for Washington Spirit after successful 2018 draft week
By Lauren Green
“I’m really excited for the possibilities,” Gabarra said. “We’re in a really good position through trades and draft picks and having the number one pick and the ability to pick Andi is huge because [she’s] not only a local player, a high-quality person who could be a person we build our franchise around for years to come.”
The Spirit finished at the bottom of the standings in 2017, but are beginning to benefit from a plan that began more than a year ago.
“The process with our roster started 15 months ago and we have made some difficult moves,” Gabarra said after the draft. “Now it’s time to benefit from the next step in that plan. We’ve drafted some really good quality international players and some really good young players.”
Roster (as of 3/6)
Midfielders (10): Yanara Aedo, Estefania Banini, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Maddie Huster (CDP), Tori Huster, Rose Lavelle, Joanna Lohman, Morgan Proffitt, Havana Solaun, Andi Sullivan (CDP/NYR)
Forwards (8): Cali Farquharson, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Myers (NRI), Francisca Ordega (NYR), Mallory Pugh (NYR), Arielle Ship, Marissa Sullivan (NRI), Mallory Eubanks (CDP)