Washington Spirit Profile
Despite being one of NWSL's founding members, success has been hard to come by for the Spirit. However, with a passionate fanbase they are one of America's leading women's soccer clubs.
Washington Spirit were one of the original teams when the National Women's Soccer League was founded.
They were rebranded from the D.C. United women's team that played in the USL W-League in 2011 and 2012. The Spirit hired the D.C. women's manager Mike Jordan to be their first manager.
Bill Lynch was the original owner of the Spirit and remained so until 2018, when he sold most of the team to Steve Baldwin.
The new colours and name were announced in January 2013, leading up to the April opener. The badge resembles a torch and has a crown with 11 stars.
Under the name there is a soccer ball with a star in the middle, representing the fans who "fuel the spirit." The background of the badge is red, white and blue, resembling the US flag.
From 2013 to 2018, the Spirit played home games at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Maryland. In 2018, they began playing at the new Audi Field, the stadium operated by MLS side D.C. United.
In 2020, they announced plans to play at both stadiums and Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia. The 2021 season is expected to be split between Segra Field and Audi Field, with new training facilities shared with D.C. United in Leesburg.
In eight seasons in the NWSL, the Spirit have made the play-offs three times. They lost in the final in 2016 and reached the semi-finals in both 2014 and 2015.
The Mark Parsons era
The Spirit started life with the NWSL Player Allocation as they received American goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, American defender Ali Krieger and Canadian midfielder Diana Matheson. They drafted Stephanie Ochs, Tori Huster and Jordan Angeli, while also adding Tiffany McCarty.
Their first game was a 1-1 draw against Boston Breakers on April 13, with McCarty scoring for the Spirit. They picked up a win on May 16, beating Seattle Reign 4-2, but Jordan was fired after 11 games.
Reserves coach Mark Parsons was promoted, but the Spirit never really got going. They had a 13-match winless streak, with one draw and 12 losses, before winning two of their last three games.
With three wins and just 14 points, the Spirit finished dead-last with a -23 goal difference.
Matheson scored eight of the team's 16 goals and no other player scored more than two times over the season. Matheson made the NWSL Best XI and Krieger was on the second team.
The 2014 season
Before the 2014 season, the Spirit signed England forward Jodie Taylor from Sydney FC and made multiple trades.
They acquired midfielder Christine Nairn from Seattle, forward Danesha Adams from Houston, midfielder Veronica Perez from Western New York, and forward Tiffany Weimer from Portland.
They lost McCarty and Ochs but drafted Crystal Dunn with the first overall selection of the 2014 NWSL College Draft.
The Spirit alternated losses and wins to start the season before they played five straight games without defeat from May 17 to June 4.
They followed three consecutive wins with three straight losses, but only lost once in nine games between June 28 and August 9. Despite losing on the last day of the season 1-0 to Sky Blue, the Spirit made the play-offs.
They finished tied for fourth on 35 points but held the tiebreaker over Chicago as they had won all three regular season matchups with the Red Stars.
The Spirit went to Seattle for the NWSL play-offs. Perez gave the visitors the lead in the 65th minute, but the Reign rallied for a 2-1 win.
Taylor led the team in scoring with 11 goals over the season while Matheson added eight goals and Nairn had six.
Harris posted four clean sheets among her 10 wins and she made 66 saves over the season. Krieger made the NWSL Best XI and Taylor was on the second team.
Reaching another semi-final
Before the 2015 season, Taylor was traded to Portland and Yael Averbuch signed with FC Kansas City.
The Spirit added midfielder Joanna Lohman from Boston and Katherine Reynolds from Western New York. They drafted defender Megan Oyster and signed Nigerian international Francisca Ordega.
After a defeat to open the season, the Spirit won two straight with three goals in each game. They had a stretch from May 30 to August 1 with just one loss, despite losing multiple players to the 2015 Women's World Cup.
After a loss on August 8, the Spirit played four in a row without defeat to clinch a play-off spot. Dunn scored six goals and added an assist in August to claim the NWSL Player of the Month award.
The Spirit picked up 30 points from 20 games and finished fourth. They again went to Seattle in the NWSL play-offs and this time lost 3-0.
Dunn led the team with a franchise-record 15 goals over the season, and she was named the NWSL Most Valuable Player while also adding three assists.
Dunn led the NWSL in goals scored and was the Spirit's lone player in the NWSL Best XI, with Krieger in the second team.
The Jim Gabarra era
At the end of the 2015 season, Parsons stepped down to take over the Portland Thorns. The Spirit hired Jim Gabarra from Sky Blue to be their new manager.
They drafted Cheyna Williams in the first round and were allocated Canadian goalie Stephanie Labbe and defender Shelina Zadorsky. Perez and Hatch left while Reynolds was traded to Portland for defender Alyssa Kleiner.
The Spirit opened the 2016 season with three straight wins, their best-ever start. After a draw and a victory, they had played five straight without defeat before falling in Portland 4-1.
They lost just once in July, picking up four wins as well, before the league took a break for the 2016 Summer Olympics. They returned to action after 19 days and beat Houston 2-1 before also beating Orlando 2-1 to end August.
The Spirit beat Seattle 2-1 on September 7 to move into first place, but they lost the last two games to finish two points behind Parsons and Portland.
With 12 wins and 39 points, the Spirit had had their best-ever season. They hosted a play-off game against Chicago Red Stars at Maryland SoccerPlex and Krieger scored in the 36th minute for a 1-0 lead.
Chicago tied the game in the 74th minute to force overtime. Franny Ordega won the game in the 111th minute to secure the Spirit's first-ever postseason win.
The NWSL final was played in Houston against Western New York, and Dunn gave the Spirit the lead in the ninth minute. The game was tied five minutes later and stayed that way until extra time when Dunn scored again.
Western New York tied the game in the 124th minute and the Flash won 3-2 on penalties as the Spirit missed their final two kicks.
Estefania Banini led the Spirit with five goals in 2016, while Matheson, Lohman and Katie Stengel scored four times. Dunn had five assists while Nairn added three.
Banini was the July Player of the Month in the NWSL with four goals in five games.
From final to stagnation
Before the 2017 season, Krieger was traded to Orlando, Nairn and Matheson were traded to Seattle, and Dunn left for Chelsea in England.
They added USWNT midfielder Kristie Mewis from Boston, while rookie forward Mallory Pugh joined the team in May.
The season started slowly, with just one win and one draw in the first seven games. Washington then had a three-game stretch without a loss, but they won only once between June 24 and September 10.
Injuries to Ordega, Lohman, and goalie Kelsey Wys hurt, while Mewis was traded to Chicago on August 21.
The Spirit lost their final two games of the season and finished tied bottom with 19 points from 24 games as they won just five times. Pugh led the team with six goals in 16 games while Williams scored five times.
Before starting the 2018 season, the Spirit acquired forward Ashley Hatch and defender Taylor Smith from North Carolina for Dunn's NWSL rights.
They also picked up USWNT midfielder Rose LaVelle when Boston folded, as well as goalie Aubrey Bledsoe in a draft-pick trade with Orlando. Matthews missed the season due to pregnancy and Labbe was released.
The season started with just one win and two draws over the first eight games. They picked up another win on May 23 and two more draws in early June.
After eight straight losses, Gabarra was fired on August 21, with assistant Tom Torres named interim manager.
The highlight of the season came on August 25 when a franchise record of 7,976 fans attended the first game at Audi Field.
In the last match of the season on September 1, Arielle Ship scored against Sky Blue to end a league record 765-minute goal drought. The Spirit hadn't scored since a 2-1 defeat to Orlando on July 7.
The Spirit tallied 12 goals in 24 games for the season and they were shutout 15 times, finishing with 11 points in eighth place out of nine teams.
Hatch led the team with four goals while Ordega had three. Bledsoe set an NWSL record with 108 saves in a season and she was nominated for the Goalkeeper of the Year award.
The Richie Burke era
Before the 2019 season, Steve Baldwin became the new majority owner and the Spirit hired Richie Burke as their new manager.
They added 15 new players, including defender Amy Harrison and midfielder Chloe Logarzo from the Australia national team.
They also brought back McCarty, and drafted defender Sam Staab and midfielder Jordan DiBiasi. Banini left to play in Spain while Ordega went to play in China. Lohman retired.
The season started with a 2-0 win over Sky Blue and the Spirit lost just once in their first nine games. They passed their 2018 points total in game six of the season with a 2-0 win over Chicago.
During the 2019 Women's World Cup, they were short-handed and lost two games while drawing two others. A win on July 24 was their only victory in a 10-game span as they fell out of a play-off spot.
Washington rallied to win back-to-back games at the end of the year, but with a 0-0 draw against Portland in the finale, they finished in fifth place, four points off the play-offs.
Hatch again led the Spirit by scoring seven goals during the 2019 campaign. DiBiasi scored four while both Matthews and Crystal Thomas netted three times.
With World Cup commitments, Pugh played in just nine games while Lavelle played in six. Bledsoe had nine clean sheets over the season and was named NWSL Player of the Week twice.
The 2020 season
Before the 2020 season, the Spirit added Japanese forward Kumi Yokoyama and Canadian forward Jenna Hellstrom. They traded Pugh to Sky Blue for four draft picks while Ship, Chloe Logarzo, Harrison and McCarty left on the re-entry wire.
The Spirit added Ashley Sanchez, Natalie Jacobs and Averie Collins through the draft.
The 2020 season was postponed due to COVID-19, with an NWSL Challenge Cup played in June and July in Utah.
Washington started the competition with a 2-1 win over Chicago as Lavelle and Hatch scored.
After a loss to North Carolina and a draw against Portland, Washington beat Houston 1-0 with a goal from Bayley Feist. In the knockout round, they lost in a penalty shootout to Sky Blue and were eliminated.
Lavelle was traded to OL Reign in August before signing with Manchester City two days later. In the four-game NWSL Fall Series, Washington won two, lost one and drew one, with five goals scored.
The goals were scored by five different players, and the Spirit finished in third place with seven points.
Diana Matheson holds the team record with 23 goals in 63 games between 2013 and 2016.
Crystal Dunn scored 17 times in 54 games from 2014-16, while Christine Nairn netted 16 goals in 53 games from 2014-16. English forward Jodie Taylor scored 11 goals in 2014, her only season with the Spirit.
Tori Huster is still active with the Spirit and holds the appearance record with 133 since 2013, 60 more than the next player. Ashlyn Harris has the most starts in goal for the Spirit with 46 between 2013 and 2015.
She holds the team mark for most wins with 15, while Canadian Stephanie Labbe has the team record with seven clean sheets.
Mallory Pugh, Kristie Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Ali Krieger are among the more prominent names in the US women's national team to have played for the Spirit.