With the National Women’s Soccer League season a little more than one month away, Germantown’s hometown professional soccer team, the Washington Spirit, has been busy signing free agents and draft pick, and making roster moves as the team preps for the 2019 campaign.
The Spirit announced an initial 35-player roster ahead of the opening week of NWSL preseason training camp. The roster included 35-players, of which 14 non-roster invitees and five players that were selected in the 2019 NWSL College Draft. Seven members of the roster have recent national team experience, including: USA players Mallory Pugh, Rose Lavelle, Andi Sullivan and Tegan McGrady; Australian internationals Amy Harrison and Chloe Logarzo; and Jamaica’s Cheyna Matthews.
Lavelle, Pugh and Sullivan have re-joined the club after their participation of the 2019 She Believes Cup. Harrison and Logarzo will arrive to Spirit camp after the Cup of Nations concludes in Australia. Matthews is missing the start of preseason camp as she represents Jamaica in a pair of friendlies against Chile.
The Spirit has signed all five players selected by the club in the 2019 NWSL College Draft, prior to the start of preseason training camp. Ranging from the No. 3 overall pick to No. 17, each of the five players were taken in the first two rounds of the draft on Jan. 10 in Chicago. Washington’s draft class includes first-round picks Jordan DiBiasi, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady and Dorian Bailey, and second-round pick Bayley Feist. Per league and team rules, the terms of the deals were not disclosed.
“We feel we’ve drafted five top players who can all contribute right away in this league, and we believe making an immediate commitment to them is important,” said the Spirit’s new Head Coach Richie Burke. “We’ve got five young stars of the future and I’m really looking forward to integrating them into our squad.”
Earlier this month, the Spirit re-signed a core of six players who will make up the backbone of the club. The Spirit re-signed Meggie Dougherty Howard, Mallory Eubanks, Ashley Hatch, Tori Huster, Arielle Ship and Andi Sullivan, who have all inked new contracts with the club.
From Huster, Washington's longest-tenured player - to Sullivan, who was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2018 NWSL College Draft - the group of six features an array of versatile field players with a history of strong contributions to the Spirit.
These six players join the club’s seven previously announced contracts, including: Megan Crosson, Cali Farquharson, Cheyna Matthews, Chloe Logarzo, Amy Harrison, and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
The Spirit have also signed forward/defender Paige Nielsen who has previously played professionally in the NWSL, and abroad in Australia and South Korea. She was originally drafted with the 25th pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft by the Seattle Reign, for whom she made two appearances.
Since then, Nielsen has played for the Western Sydney Wanderers of the Australian W-League and Suwon FC in South Korea, for whom she made 43 appearances and scored 13 goals. Most recently, Nielsen was a member of the W-League’s Canberra United. She played four years of college soccer at the University of North Carolina. She helped the Tar Heels win the NCAA National Championship as a freshman in 2012.
The club waived defender Whitney Church, who was drafted by the Spirit in 2015. Church spent her first four professional seasons with the Spirit since being drafted No. 30 overall of Penn State University.
Church is the third member of the Spirit backline to depart the club. In January, during the NWSL Draft, the Spirit trade defenders Caprice Dydasco and Estelle Johnson to Sky Blue FC. In return Spirit received the No. 3 overall pick from Sky Blue. With the pick, Washington selected Stanford University midfielder Jordan DiBiasi.
The only defenders on the preseason roster who was with the Spirit last year are Mallory Eubanks and Crosson. In February the club signed Crosson, who last played for Washington during the final game of the NWSL regular season as a National Team Replacement Player, logging the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Sky Blue FC.
As a rookie in 2015, Church played in 16 games, totaling 1364 minutes for the Spirit. In 2016, she played in 11 regular season games, starting seven, and played every minute of the Spirit’s semifinal match and the NWSL Championship. During her third season with the Spirit in 2017, she appeared in 22 games, totaling 1,980 minutes of playing time on the back line. In 2018, she played in 22-of-24 regular season games for Washington, accumulating 1,898 minutes of playing time. She finished second on the team with 103 defensive clearances.
The Spirit’s 2019 preseason game schedule kicks off March 16 at City Stadium in Richmond, Va. against James Madison University and the regular season home opener at the Maryland SoccerPlex is scheduled for April 13 against Sky Blue FC.
Single game tickets for entire season went on sale on March 4 at Tickets.WashingtonSpirit.com.
Ten of the Spirit’s 12 home games will be played at the Maryland SoccerPlex, and two will be played at a venue to be named after the conclusion of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
On Saturday, Aug. 24, the Spirit will host the Orlando Pride in their first of two home games away from the Maryland SoccerPlex. Three weeks later, Washington will host Seattle Reign FC on Saturday, Sept. 14, also at a venue to be announced later. Tickets to both games are included in the Spirit’s Season Ticket plan.
All of the NWSL’s 2019 regular season matches will be streamed on Yahoo! Sports, while international fans will be able to follow the action on the NWSL app and NWSLsoccer.com.
The Spirit has also announced a landmark broadcast partnership with NBC Sports Washington and Monumental Sports Network, which will provide local TV and digital broadcasts of a minimum of 12 Spirit games. Washington's local TV broadcast schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.
The historic seventh NWSL season will feature nine teams set to face off in a single table, 24-game regular season - with 12 home games and 12 away games - in which every team will take on each opponent three times.
Top: Washington Spirit’s Tori Huster is the team’s longest-tenured player on a team with many new faces for 2019.
Next: The Spirit boasts some of the best young talent in the NSWL with USWNT standout Mallory Pugh.
Next: Both Pugh and Rose Lavelle will join the Spirit after their time with the USWNT during the She Believes Cup which wrapped up earlier this week.
Next: The Spirit has resigned Ashley Hatch among six other core players.
Next: Silver Spring native, Joanna Lohman is a member of the club’s preseason roster.
Photos by Germantown Pulse