By Kevin O’Rourke
It may have been the off-season for on field plays, but Washington Spirit front office was busy making plays to make changes and shore-up the roster for the 2015 campaign. The 2015 version of the Washington Spirit will have many new faces.
On Jan. 16 the Spirit, Germantown’s hometown professional soccer team, took part in the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League College Draft in Philadelphia and come home with three draft picks, two more than they expected.
The Spirit, who came within one game of the NWSL championship game last year, have made a number of off-season changes and will begin the 2015 season with a very different team than they had in 2014.
The team drafted three players, defenders Megan Oyster and Caprice Dydasco both from UCLA and Whitney Church from Penn State. The Spirit were to have only one pick in this year’s draft but some wheeling and dealing on draft day got them three picks.
The Spirit traded last season’s top scorer, forward Jodie Taylor to the Portland Thorns in exchange the No. 13 overall pick and two second round picks in the 2016 College Draft. The Spirit selected Chicago native Megan Oyster with the pick. Portland acquired the No. 13 pick from Houston in a separate deal.
The Spirit then traded two 2016 second round picks to FC Kansas City for the No. 19 overall pick in this year’s draft. The Spirit used that pick to select Hawaiian native Caprice Dydasco.
With the club’s final pick of the draft, the Spirit took Ashburn, Va. native Whitney Church with the No. 30 overall selection.
“Our dream strategy was the three players that we grabbed,” said Spirit Head Coach and General Manager Mark Parsons in a team produced video. “For all different reasons, some because of the needs we have, also because of the talent character and mentality of the players.”
On Thursday, Jan. 22, the team announced the signing of Argentinian forward Estefania Banini, formerly with Colo Colo of the Chilean Women’s Football Championship in Chile. The 24-year-old from Mendoza, Argentina will join the Spirit after four seasons at Colo Colo.
Two days prior to the College Draft, the league announced the allocated players from the Canadian, Mexican, United States national teams who would be to be assigned to NWSL teams. The Spirit gained defender Arianna Romero from the Mexican Women’s National team but lost Canadian Robyn Gayle who was not among the allocated players. In November, the Spirit acquired Romero from the Houston Dash in exchange for Spirit defender Niki Cross.
Those returning players allocated to the Spirit are USWNT players defender Crystal Dunn, goal keeper Ashlyn Harris, and defender Ali Krieger; Canadian National Team midfielder Diana Matheson; and midfielder Veronica Perez from the Mexican National Team.
Matheson, a fan favorite, continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in Canadian National Team game on Oct. 25. Recovery time for a torn ACL typically takes at least six months to a year, and Matheson is hopeful to be able to return to form in time to play in the FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in Canada beginning in June. It is unclear how much she will be able to contribute for the Spirit in the early part of the season which will begin on April 10.
Other changes to the Spirit lineup for 2015 include the departure of Yael Averbuch who started all but one game last season. She has signed with the Houston Dash. Other players not returning to the Spirit include, Mexican National teamer Renae Cuellar who was not allocated, defender Danesha Adams who has not been resigned, and mid-season acquisition Lisa De Vanna who was released prior to the last game of the 2014 season. And of course, Spirit favorite Lori Lindsey has retired.
In November, the Spirit signed Welsh International player Natasha Harding. The 25-year-old Harding joins the Spirit after eight successful seasons in the FA Women’s Super League. After a five-year stint with Cardiff City, Harding joined Bristol Academy in 2012. In her three seasons with Bristol, Harding made over 50 appearances and scored 14 goals across all competitions.
Also in November, the Spirit and Western New York Flash swapped goalies. Spirit acquired goalkeeper Kelsey Wys and a fourth round pick in the 2016 draft from the Flash in exchange for the rights to the Spirit’s back-up goalkeeper Chantel Jones. Wys, 23, was drafted No. 18 overall in the 2014 draft. The Coral Springs, Fl. native made nine starts in 10 appearances as a rookie for the Flash in 2014, recording one shutout and 47 saves.
In another deal with the Flash, the Spirit acquired defender Katherine Reynolds and midfielder Angela Salem. In exchange, the Spirit has sent midfielder Jordan Angeli and the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft to the Flash.
Reynolds, 27, played for the Western New York Flash for three years, winning a WPSL Elite championship in 2012 and the NWSL Shield in 2013. She started and played in 41 games during the past two NWSL seasons with the Flash.
Salem, 26, also played for the Flash since 2012, winning a WPSL Elite championship in 2012 and the NWSL Shield in 2013. She made 44 appearances with the Flash during the last two NWSL seasons.
Also in October, the Spirit signed Liverpool Ladies midfielder Amanda Da Costa. The 25-year-old played a key role in Liverpool winning back-to-back championships and claiming its first appearance in the UEFA Champions League.
Rounding out the new faces that will be in camp when the Spirit begin camp at the Maryland SoccerPlex in March will be former Boston Breakers midfielder and Silver Spring native, Joanna Lohman, 34, who played two seasons with the Boston Breakers, scoring three goals in 39 total appearances between 2013 and 2014. The Penn State alum was waived by the Breakers at the end of the 2014 season and was then selected off waivers by the Spirit. Lohman returns to playing in the Washington area after stints with the Washington Freedom and D.C. United Women.
The team also re-signed defender Tori Huster and expect forward Tiffany Weimer to return from last year’s season-ending knee injury.
All players will report for preseason, beginning on March 9. The Spirit will kick off the 2015 NWSL regular season against the Houston Dash on Friday, April 10, and the first home game will be April 18 as the Spirit will host defending NWSL champions FC Kansas City.
Top: Washington Spirit captain Ali Krieger (11) controls the ball against Christine Sinclair of the Portland Thorns during a game in July at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Krieger will be returning to the Spirit this year.
Next: Washington Spirit defender Tori Huster (23) with the ball at her feet, will be return to the Spirit for the 2015 season.
Next: The Spirit hope that Canadian national team member Diana Matheson (8), can recover from a torn ACL suffered in October in time to contribute when the season starts in April.