The Washington Spirit will play home games in the Maryland SoccerPlex, home to what once was the region’s -- and the country’s -- most storied women’s professional soccer franchise. The history remains, but the Washington Freedom haven’t played a game since the 2010 WPS season (we’ll save the long, dramatic story of what happened to the team in 2011 and let you read that here).
The Freedom won the 2003 WUSA title and after that league folded, they won the amateur W-League in 2007.
But this Washington, D.C., franchise, set to play in the National Women’s Soccer League, carries none of that history. The Spirit aren’t the Freedom, and they don’t want to be. They may, however, want to replicate the success and sustainability of the club that lasted 10 years and three different leagues.
As it stands, this team that fans will be able to watch at the SoccerPlex will likely need all the help it can get. The Spirit lack a proven goal scorer and will rely on untested rookies to find the back of the net. A fairly strong defense (if fully healthy) could combat a lack of goal scoring for the Spirit, but the signs (including a 2-0 loss to the University of Maryland and 6-3 loss to the University of Virginia in preseason, ugly results even if the roster was depleted) are that this team will struggle.
Who you know: Ali Krieger (pictured) and Ashlyn Harris will be the anchors in the back and Harris will have to be lights-out in net to keep this team in games. Krieger, Harris and midfielder Lori Lindsey are all familiar faces in D.C. having all previously played in Washington with the Freedom. Diana Matheson, who scored the game-winning goal for Canada in the 2012 Olympic bronze medal game, will be looked at as a playmaker.
Who you should know: Candace Chapman anchored the back line of two WPS championship teams. If healthy -- a big ‘if’ -- she’ll be the best free agent signing this team made. Ingrid Wells, 24, could have a future with the U.S. national team and rookie Caroline Miller could be one of Washington’s young players who steps up.
What it means: Washington looks very unlikely to make the playoffs, but if the defense can hold steady and some of the younger players in attack find a groove, the middle of the table and the final couple of playoff spots are wide open amongst a few teams. The issue with the Spirit is that there are just too many ‘ifs’.
The Washington Spirit open the season on the road on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET against the Boston Breakers.
More NWSL previews:
- Team preview: Boston Breakers
- Team preview: Chicago Red Stars
- Team preview: FC Kansas City
- Team preview: Portland Thorns
- Team preview: Seattle Reign FC
- Team preview: Sky Blue FC
- Team preview: Washington Spirit
- Team preview: Western New York Flash