The Washington Spirit are rising – plus, they’re ‘fit as hell’
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, May 15, 2023
The Washington Spirit are on the rise, having moved on from the turbulence of the past.
The Spirit have popped into first place in the NWSL standings with four wins, three draws and no losses (!). They’re the last undefeated team in the league.
That’s quote the turnaround for the Spirit, who finished second-to-last in the league last season with just three wins all season.
The latest victory came on the road this weekend against Angel City. Ashley Hatch scored the lone goal in the 1-0 win.
There’s a lot of reasons for the Spirit’s early season success. Probably one of the most obvious is the leadership of Mark Parsons, who is in his first season with the team after leading the Portland Thorns from 2016-21 and a short stint with the Netherlands national team.
I was curious, so I went back and looked at his record while with the Thorns: 27-9-10. That’s a winning rate of nearly 60%. Which kind of leaves me wondering whether the Dutch gave him enough time. He was 10-3-5 with the Netherlands but the team was not able to defend its 2017 title in the Euros.
Factor No. 2: The obvious connection between Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman. Clearly those three have clicked, and it was on display two weeks ago when the Spirit downed the Wave 3-1 on CBS. Sanchez set up Rodman for the first goal, then Rodman set up Sanchez for the second.
Hatch took the penalty in stoppage time after a handball call in the Spirit’s win over Angel City. She now leads the league with five goals.
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Afterward Hatch praised Parsons.
“I mean, Mark’s a really good and smart coach. He gets us organized and ready, mentally and physically, for every game and we’ve just been organized. Our defense has been doing great on and off the ball and they really have helped usget those shut outs but also start the attack.”
You can see what Parsons said postgame below, but he credited the defense but also suggested the team grew overall in the victory.
“The defense was just unbelievable. And we finished the night with more shots, we finished the night with the biggest chances of the game, on the West Coast, on the third game of seven days. San Diego, I knew it was a good performance and I was happy that we have room to grow. Tonight, this is massive. It’s just the conditions, it’s the mindset, to be able to come here and defend. If the game with a draw, no problem, we’re disappointed with the missed chances. But then we keep the pressure on and we get the chance to put the game in and get three points. Yeah, we grew up. We grew up tonight. We’ve really grew up tonight. And very impressed with the group.”
In retrospect, it appears almost as if the Spirit won the 2021 NWSL championship in spite of all the chaos surrounding coach Richie Burke and the ownership power-struggle. The 2022 may have been the inevitable letdown following all the drama.
Then again, it may have just been that Kris Ward wasn’t a good fit and Parsons was. We’ll see what happens this week when the Spirit visit the Orlando Pride, who are undefeated in their last two.
Oh, and we also have the Spirit’s Andi Sullivan to thank for this gem:
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FIVE AT THE IX: Mark Parsons
Here’s Parsons in the postgame:
“We’re only in this game because the backline performed very well.”
He also noted that all the players with a defender or goalkeeper next to their name on the Spirit’s website will be getting free coffee for the next week.
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|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer|
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|By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX|
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