Home News NWSL Season Preview 2023: Washington Spirit in transition

NWSL Season Preview 2023: Washington Spirit in transition

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After a disappointing 2022 season, the Washington Spirit are restructuring themselves in an attempt to fair better in the standings this year. But the competition is steep and their roster is inexperienced. Will their youthful talent be enough to push them over the edge?

The Washington Spirit disappointed the District by finishing second to last in the standings last year. This was a huge drop for the Spirit who won the championship in 2021 and it seemed like whatever fire fueled them through that season had gone out in 2022. It is important to note that they had a tough season off the field grappling with the fallout of the Yates report and losing their head coach halfway through the season due to verbal abuse.

The Washington Spirit seem to be cleansing itself of the hardships of its last two seasons and are rebuilding its brand and its squad. Their offseason has been one of the most active, whether for better or for worse remains to be seen. They have re-hired Mark Parsons as their head coach who could provide them with the steadiness they’re chasing.

Washington Spirit projected starting XI:

The Spirit this year is a team of very young players. This means they will have to try and find a balance between their young firecracker talent on the field, and stability from their experienced veterans. Getting minutes for their rookies will be crucial for the Spirit this year as they attempt to figure out who they are on and off the field after their offseason roster overhaul. Their first matchup of the season is March 26 when they’ll host OL Reign at Audi Field. This might be their starting lineup for that match based on the most recent preseason roster update.

Goalkeeper: Aubrey Kingsbury

Defenders: Gabrielle Carle, Amber Brooks, Sam Staab, Camryn Bielgalski

Midfielders: Ashley Sanchez, Andi Sullivan, Nicole Douglas, Marissa Sheva

Forwards: Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman

Washington Spirit Most Important Player: Trinity Rodman

The Spirit’s strengths right now lie in their attacking, with defense being questionable at the moment. So, it’s no surprise that their most important player is a forward. Trinity Rodman has been special from the start, starting her professional career by being drafted as the second overall pick by the Spirit and ending that season with a championship and the 2021 rookie of the year.

She was the youngest 2022 Ballon d’Or nominee at 20 years old. She managed to score eight goals for the Spirit this year between the normal season and Challenge Cup, and tallied five assists on top of that. She’s been consistently called up to the National team and has scored twice for them in her 15 appearances with the team so far. She’s got incredible pace and pressures defenders into mistakes often, pushing forward with a high press that earns her spectacular goals.

Considering the Spirit were negative seven in goal differential last season, they’re going to need some of that Rodman firepower to get ahead. Not to mention Trinity is a delight to watch and brings incredible energy to the pitch.

Washington Spirit best case scenario for the 2023 season: Making the playoffs

Considering that the Spirit dropped from league champions to almost the bottom of the table, they made hefty adjustments during the offseason. This indicates that this season might be more of a rebuilding season for them than a winner-takes-all one.

They’re going through a rebrand on and off the field, and most of their roster is young. Actually, 13 players on their current roster are under 25 years old, with one of those being the youngest player ever signed in the NWSL — Chloe Ricketts at 15 years old. This lack of experience is going to show when they take the field and it’s going to take some time for them to get into the groove.

Even with the talent on their team, the best-case scenario for the Spirit this year is to make the playoffs. Likely by clinching it just in time toward the end of the season and the middle of the table.

Washington Spirit predicted finish: Seventh of eighth in the NWSL standings

This team is hungry to prove itself, overflowing with talent and potential. But the competition is steep this year and the Spirit are going to need time to grow while other teams might be more ready to hit the ground running. This season is going to be difficult, and with national team players in and out, the spirit will be without some of their heavy hitters. The Spirit will end up towards the bottom of the standings again but bumped a few spots from last year, finishing seventh or eighth.

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