Thirteen minutes after celebrating six Washington Spirit players called up to the USWNT, and one minute after posting a promo for a two-game deal at Audi, the Spirit abruptly dropped news that head coach Kris Ward had been relieved of his duties. The tweet was pure text, with no link to a press release nor statement from anyone at the club.
Kris Ward has been relieved of his duties as head coach.— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) August 22, 2022
The timing and lack of information naturally breeds questions. Former assistant coach Lee Nguyen recently unretired from professional soccer to rejoin Ho Chi Minh City FC in Vietnam. This leaves goalkeeper/assistant coach Paul Crichton and first-year assistant coach Angela Salem as remaining members of staff.
With just one win on the season, and without context, it’s not surprising that a coach would be removed. However, the Spirit were made to cope through a hellacious early season schedule, playing half their full season schedule in just two months. This included multiple stretches with three of fewer days of rest in between.
Naturally, this also led to injuries and a significant shuffling of personnel throughout the season. Add an international tournament in July in which seven Spirit players were away and you can start to get the full scope of how this hasn’t been a normal season by any stretch.
Of course the bottom line is that while Ward’s coaching after the removal of Richie Burke helped the team win the club’s first NWSL Championship, results this season have been poor. The club sit 11th in a 12 team league with one win, six losses and nine draws. Many of the losses and draws came in heartbreaking fashion, from uncharacteristic individual lapses to late game winning or equalizing goals for their opponent.
It seemed like winning a championship would bide Ward at least a full season with a reassessment and decision coming in the offseason, instead the decision has been made now, with just five remaining games left on the schedule.
Steven Goff of The Washington Post is reporting that Angela Salem will take over the running of upcoming training sessions while the Spirit plan to bring in an interim coach.
Pablo Maurer of The Athletic is reporting ‘rumblings’ that the recently hired President of Soccer Operations, and former Florida State University head coach, Mark Krikorian, will take over interim duties through the end of the year.
Well ok then.— Pablo Iglesias Maurer (@MLSist) August 22, 2022
Have heard rumblings that Mark Krikorian, the club's president of soccer ops & a multi-time NCAA title-winning coach, will guide the team through the end of the year. https://t.co/BjnH9SUa8Z
Without any statement or guidance from the front office, it seems several options are in the air, which reinforces curiosity around the timing of Ward’s removal and the lack of communication since.
Hopefully we get further answers and some clarity soon.