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Washington Spirit look to reset in 2019 with new players, head coach

Apr 4, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; United States forward Mallory Pugh (22) prepares to shoot and score on goal in the second half during an International Friendly Women's Soccer match against Australia at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After missing out on the playoffs for the second season in a row, the Washington Spirit look toward a roster, coaching and front office refresh ahead of the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League season. 

Despite the reinforced strength from its USWNT players — such as midfielder Rose Lavelle, Andi Sullivan and forward Mallory Pugh — the Spirit finished second to last in the league with a record of (2-17-5) in 2018. In fact, the Spirit finished just above Sky Blue FC, which had one win last season. 

Very little is left over from the 2018 club. Coach Jim Gabarra was replaced by Richie Burke and 12 players from last year’s team will not return this season, including former captain Estelle Johnson and fan-favorite Joanna Lohman, who announced her retirement this week. To help replace some of those players, the Spirit signed all five of their draft picks: Jordan DiBiasi, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady, Dorian Bailey and Bayley Feist.

The Spirit will have to quickly gel with little experience as they kick off the season at home against Sky Blue FC.

New-look Spirit open at home against Sky Blue FC

When: Saturday, April 13, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Maureen Hendricks Field Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, Md.

Live stream: Monumental Sports Network & Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Sports app (U.S); NWSLsoccer.com (international)

Broadcast: NBC Sports Washington 

The buzz:  The Spirit look for a fresh start with a young team. The mix of draft picks, returning international stars and a new coach will have to find their grove quickly to turn around after a less-than-stellar 2018 season.

Other key matches

April 13 vs. Sky Blue FC – Former captain Johnson faces off against her former team and the players that were acquired as a result of her trade to the New Jersey side.

Aug. 24 vs. Orlando Pride & Sept. 14 vs. Reign FC – The Spirit will get another chance to break records at Audi Field, when they travel out of Maryland and into Washington, D.C., for two primetime games at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Check out the full 2019 schedule here.

Off-the-field Notes

New broadcast deal: The biggest off-field story for the Spirit was the local broadcasting deal with NBC Sports Washington and Monumental Sports Network. This will allow more games to be shown locally in the D.C. area, other than the NWSL.com streaming. This comes in the wake of Lifetime and NWSL prematurely ending their national broadcasting deal.

Washington Spirit games, except for the game against Utah Royals FC on, are available on NBC Sports Washington and Monumental Sports Network subscribers.

More information on how to view these games can be found at getmonumental.com.

Spirit at Audi Field: The Spirit and Major League Soccer side D.C. United also announced the Spirit will play the above two regular-season matches at Audi Field. Last season, the Spirit played their first match at Audi Field, a 1-0 loss to Portland Thorns FC, in front of a club record 7,976 crowd.

“After a fantastic experience for both our players and our fans at our debut at Audi Field last year, we are excited to double that excitement with two games this season,” Washington Spirit CEO Larry Best said. “We believe playing in the larger venue gives more fans the accessibility and the opportunity to see the quality product we are putting on the field.”

The game is less than a month after the conclusion of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. U.S. internationals will be available for the game. 

Biggest offseason moves

  • New head coach Burke made a big splash in the NWSL draft, taking nearly half of the first-round available picks, including Stanford midfielder DiBiasi (No. 3 overall), Clemson defender Staab, Stanford defender McGrady and North Carolina midfielder Bailey. The Spirit signed all four to contracts.
  • When players come in, others have to leave to make room. In the trade to get the No. 3 pick and DiBiasi, the Spirit parted with Johnson, defender Caprice Dydasco and goalkeeper DiDi Haracic to Sky Blue.
  • Although the Spirit’s resident free-spirit, Lohman, announced she would retire after the preseason, she will have a role in the Spirits’ front office.

Roster breakdown

Forwards – Arielle Ship, 23; Mallory Pugh, 20;  Tiffany McCarty, 28;  Cali Farquharson, 25; Cheyna Matthews, 25; Ashley Hatch, 23

Midfielders – Jordan DiBiasi, 23; Chloe Logarzo, 24; Amy Harrison, 23; Meggie Dougherty Howard, 23; Rose Lavelle, 23;  Andi Sullivan, 23; Bayley Feist, 22; Dorian Bailey, 22; Tori Huster, 29

Defenders – Sam Stabb, 22; Megan Crosson, 24; Tegan McGrady, 21; Paige Nielsen,25;  McKenzie Berryhill, 26; Mallory Eubanks, 22, Carlin Hudson, 22

Goalkeepers – Aubrey Bledsoe, 27;  Sammy Jo Prudhomme, 25; Shae Yanez, 21

See full roster details here.

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