After coming within a hair of winning the National Women’s Soccer League Championship game in October, the Washington Spirit and Head Coach/General Manager Jim Gabara decided it was time to shake things up, and the 2017 edition of the Washington Spirit is very different from the team which fans have seen playing at the Maryland SoccerPlex for the past two or three years.
The Spirit will begin their 5th season at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds as the NWSL begins what it hopes will be the league’s most successful season. With a new national cable television deal with Lifetime Cable Networks, 2017 promises to be another exciting season despite the many changes to the Spirit’s lineup.
The Spirit will be featured on the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime three times this season; the Orlando Pride road game on Saturday, April 22 at 4:00 pm/pregame at 3:30 pm; the Chicago Red Star road game on Saturday, June 17, 4:00 pm/pregame at 3:30 pm; and the North Carolina Courage road game on August 19, 4:00 pm/pregame at 3:30 pm.
The Spirit will open the regular season this Saturday, April 15 with a rematch of the 2016 NWSL Championship against the North Carolina Courage (formerly known as the Western New York Flash). The Spirit and Courage will kick off at Maureen Hendricks Field at 3:00 pm.
The Spirit have retained the talents of long-time fan favorites Joanna Lohman and Tori Huster, and will continue to employ the talents of Canadian Federation Players with goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé and defender Shelina Zadorsky, along with two International players, midfielder Line Sigvardsen Jensen from Denmark and forward Francisca Ordega representing Nigeria.
Holding midfielder Tori Huster, who signed a new contract with the Spirit, is now the lone remaining original Spirit player. The 27-year-old Ohio native and former Florida State star leads the only NWSL club she’s ever played for in appearances and minutes played.
Huster will have help in the middle from veterans Lohman and Kristie Mewis. “We still have a lot to work on, but I feel like we’re really starting to connect,” said Mewis on her new teammates, as she enters her first season with the club after joining from the Boston Breakers. “They’re really smart players, and I’m starting to feel a real chemistry with them,” she said after scoring her fourth goal in the Spirit preseason, the most recent against the University of Virginia.
Veteran forward Katie Stengel and second-year player Cheyna Williams, along Ordega and former Seattle Reign player Havana Slaun will make up the front line. They are joined up top by rookies Lindsey Agnew and Arielle Ship.
Ship joins a draft class of attacking players for the Spirit. Ship was the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2015 and finished her career at Cal with 29 goals and 14 assists. “Ari is a player we believe can come in and challenge immediately for a starting spot just about anywhere in our attacking end,” Gabarra explained.
The Spirit draft class includes Agnew, who played at Ohio State University and was recently called up to the Canadian National Women’s Team. Agnew was selected by the Spirit with 19th overall pick. Agnew represented Canada at the 2012 U-17 Women’s World Cup and the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup. She led Ohio State in 2016 with ten goals and eight assists. Agnew concluded her college career with 19 assists, 55 points, and 17 career goals.
With the No. 29 overall pick, the Spirit chose midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard. Dougherty Howard is no stranger to the Spirit, having played for the Washington Spirit Reserves for the past two seasons, including winning the USL W-League Championship in 2015. During the 2016 collegiate season, the Florida Gator started every match at defensive midfield and led her team with 12 assists, and tied for second in goals (8). Dougherty Howard was named the SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
With the club’s final pick of the draft, the Spirit chose midfielder Cameron Castleberry from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill with the No. 36 overall selection. Castleberry was UNC’s starter at central attacking midfielder during the team’s run to the 2016 College Cup.
The Spirit roster includes 22 total players, 19 of whom will be part of the active roster, which may include up to 20 players, to begin the season. Goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, defender Caprice Dydasco and forward Cali Farquharson will each begin the season on the 45-Day Disabled List.
Tickets for Saturday’s Washington Spirit Home Opener are available at the Spirit Website.
Also today, The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and go90 today announced a multiyear content agreement making go90 the exclusive streaming partner of the NWSL in the United States for all games except the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime.
A fully ad-supported, mobile streaming service, go90 will feature 98 NWSL games accessible via live and on-demand streaming for the 2017 season. To access, visit go90.com or simply download the go90 app via the App Store or Google Play. Users with go90 version 3.0 and later can cast live games from the go90 app to Airplay and Chromecast. No registration or authentication is required. Check out the full schedule here.
Top: Silver Spring native Joanna Lohman (15) and the Washington Spirit will open NWSL’s 5th season at the Maryland SoccerPlex as they play the North Carolina Courage on Saturday at 3:00 pm.
Video: Most of the this Lifetime commercial spot for the NWSL season features Washington Spirit players Joanna Lohman and Kristie Mewis and was shot at either RFK Stadium in Washington or the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Next: Spirit’s Tori Huster (23) is now the lone remaining original Spirit player.
Next: Earlier this week the Spirit unveiled their new red Nike kits for the 2017 NWSL season.
Next: New Spirit forward Kristie Mewis (19) scores a goal in last week’s preseason game against the University of Virginia. She has score four goals this preseason. Photo courtesy Washington Spirit Fan.
Next: Nigerian International Players Francisca Ordega (14) returns for another year of action with the Spirit.
Next: Cheyna Williams (20) returns for her second year with the Washington Spirit.
Next: Veteran forward Katie Stengel (12) returns for her second full season with the Spirit.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.