Kelley O’Hara announced Tuesday night that she would be signing with NY/NJ Gotham FC for the 2023 season, making her the first NWSL free agent to sign with a new team. While O’Hara’s decision reflects the triumph of the Players Association in securing rights for NWSL players, it comes as a blow to the Washington Spirit, who will miss both her talent and veteran leadership.
Earlier the same day the Spirit announced its initial offseason roster, revealing that 7 other players will not be returning for the 2023 season. While most starters will remain with the team, it’s clear that more off-season shifts are forthcoming.
Who else are we saying goodbye to?
Another surprise departure is goalkeeper Devon Kerr, who served as the team’s number 2 keeper and played every game Aubrey Kingsbury was absent, earning one clean sheet and a 62.5 percent save rate. Kerr’s departure leaves the team without a reliable back-up keeper, certainly an odd choice after a year in which the starter was called up for all but one of the US Women National Team’s international windows.
Fans will also be saddened by the loss of midfielder Gaby Vincent, who joined the team at the beginning of the season and seemed to be EVERYWHERE supporting the team — from hyping them up in Spirit promotional videos to attending charitable and fan events in the community. Washington acquired Vincent from Kansas City Current in December 2021 for $25,000 in allocation money and a 2023 draft pick, but she struggled with injury throughout the 2022 season, ultimately playing in only one match.
Also waived from the roster are midfielder Taylor Aylmer, forwards Averie Collins and Audrey Harding, and defenders Alia Martin and Karina Rodriguez. Waived players will be eligible for selection by other teams beginning Wednesday, November 16.
What mysteries remain?
The Spirit have three other 2022 players in free agency: Nicole Barnhart, Amber Brooks, and Tori Huster — whose fates remain unknown for now. The Spirit announced only that “Agreements for all NWSL free agents will be announced when the terms are finalized through the league office.”
So who’s left?
This round of changes leaves the team with only 13 players under contract, and an additional 3 — defenders Camryn Biegalski and Julia Roddar and midfielder Marissa Sheva — to whom new offers have been made. Here’s the roster as it stands today:
Goalkeepers (1): Aubrey Kingsbury
Defenders (2): Emily Sonnett; Sam Staab
Midfielders (6): Jordan Baggett; Dorian Bailey; Bayley Feist; Anna Heilferty; Ashley Sanchez; Andi Sullivan
Forwards (4): Maddie Elwell; Ashley Hatch; Tara McKeown; Trinity Rodman
For a team that struggled last season with keeping enough healthy defenders to form a backline, entering offseason with only 2 defenders and 1 goalkeeper on the roster is a risk. After the season the Spirit had, though, it’s clear big changes are needed, particularly if those changes include bringing in some veteran depth players.
The Spirit will have the opportunity to fill some open positions at the NWSL draft on January 12, but due to past trades, the team currently only has two picks in the third and fourth rounds. Unless they’re willing to trade for more picks as they did last season — with middling success, given the number of draftees remaining on the roster — the Spirit will need to be aggressive in acquiring players from other sources.