Alright DMV—it’s your turn for a preseason preview for your very own Washington Spirit. There is a lot to get excited for this year, and for years to come. The roster is young, the talent is fierce, and the beer garden is waiting for you at the SoccerPlex. So without further ado, let’s get to know a little bit about the team that represents our nation’s capitol (and VA and MD too).
Head Coach: Jim Gabarra
2017 Record: 5-15-4, last in the league
Projected Starting XI: There are a lot of moving parts to the Spirit, especially after their eventful offseason, so they could mix it up a bit. But the lineup could look a little bit like this:
Goalkeeper: Aubrey Bledsoe
Defense: Taylor Smith, Estelle Johnson, Rebecca Quinn, Caprice Dydasco
Midfield: Estefanía Banini, Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan, Rose Lavelle
Forwards: Ashley Hatch, Mallory Pugh
Player you should know: Mallory Pugh—she is the USWNT kid wonder at 19 years of age.
Under the radar: Estelle Johnson, because she has the most clinically beautiful sliding tackle that has ever happened in the history of the game.
Biggest offseason acquisition: There are so many to choose from. It’s like Sophie’s Choice. But I think I have to go Ashley Hatch on this one. She is the 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year, a W-League champion, and she is primed to have a phenomenal 2018 season.
Biggest rival: This year I believe new rivalries will be born for Washington, but there is always a certain level of angst when they play Sky Blue FC. This year it’ll be made even better considering Denise Reddy left her assistant coaching gig with the Spirit for the head coaching position in Jersey.
Most memorable moment from 2017: The 2017 season wasn’t one that Spirit fans are eager to relive. There were a lot of injuries, and some tough matches played. But they also had some hard-earned wins mixed in, like their 1-0 grind against Portland in June.
Why they’re the team to watch in 2018: You want to see the future of the USWNT? Take a look at Washington’s roster—Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Andi Sullivan, Rose Lavelle, Taylor Smith. Who wouldn’t want to watch?
Predicted finish: Some may disagree, but I would argue near the top of the table. Yeah, I’m calling it—they’re going to the playoffs.
Success depends on: Whether they can harness all of that young talent and morph it into the poetry in motion that all of those women are capable of on the field.
Fun prediction: Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Andi Sullivan, and Rose Lavelle join forces and become a young adult crime-fighting super team. I can see it now—there will be high-speed chases, bad guys put away, and super suits.