What I Learned at the Spirit v Penn State Game

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As I sat on the grass lawn, behind the goal, I was a bit taken aback at how close you are to the actual action. So close, that you could pick out individual players voices and hear the grunts and smacks of every collision and header. I loved it!

Here are some of my thoughts after watching Washington defeat Penn State 2-0.

Penn State looked great. They definitely held their own and showed the skill expected of the reigning National Champions. I expect to see them back the the finals defending the title, but enough about them.

I love the way the Spirit can control the game. They have the ability to hold the ball and keep possession, then within a millisecond, they can break with one touch, precision passing and with their speed up front, not only Crystal Dunn, but Tiffany Weimer, Francisca Ordega, Hayley Raso and newly drafted Cheyna Williams, they can be on your goalkeeper before you know it. Those 5, on top of speed, can beat you one v one with their first touch and leave you in their dust. Multiple times tonight, and I know they played a college team, they beat two or three players with their first touch, every single one of them. The scary thing is, this is only preseason, not everything was clean and crisp, which makes me more excited to see what they can do in midseason form!

The most important thing I learned, maybe because I was a coach and played sports my whole life and know how hard it is to find this, is that they have one bonafide leader and her name is Ali Krieger. We all know she’s the Warrior Princess, but last night, I realized that she is actually the Queen. She often says that this is “her team” and that she doesn’t want to play anywhere else, a lot of athletes say this, but after watching her this closely, I firmly believe she means it with every part of her.

The way Krieger commanded from the back, you can hear and see her all over the pitch. If she doesn’t have the ball, she is screaming instructions and/or finding open space to support her teammates. She is the best right back in the game, no question there, but after watching her last night, I have a newfound respect for the way she plays. She leads by example and by words. She takes her role on this team and within its community very seriously. You know that when you come to DC, you are coming to Krieger’s House, just a little warning for you, the Princess is now the Queen and the Spirit Squad has no problem letting you know this.

I can’t wait to watch this team develop and challenge every ball, every team, every game. If preseason has any inclination of what’s ahead, it’s going to be one heck of a season!