The second NWSL season is set to begin Saturday with Washington preparing for a Sunday home opener against the Western New York Flash at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Revisit our Season Outlook preview here.
Even though more than half the team is new this season, a strong core from last year's squad has returned.
Ashlyn Harris, goalkeeper
Offseason: Along with Ali Krieger, Harris spent the last part of 2013 playing for Tyresö FF (on loan) in the Swedish Damallsvenskan. This fall marked Harris' first venture into Champions League, having only played a partial season previously FCR 2001 Duisburg, who did not qualify. Harris departed in November, returning to Washington to have minor surgery on her left knee. She has recently returned to game fitness.
Outlook: Last season for Washington, Harris faced a near constant barrage of shots on goal (118), managing 85 saves, but 33 goals scored against her. With a much-solidified midfield and deeper bench on defense, she should have a better go of it this season. Her future with the national team is less certain, but she's still in the pool and still a U.S. allocation. But look for a healthy Harris throw herself into this NWSL season, perhaps in much the same way she did in 2011, leading Western New York to the WPS Championship.
Chantel Jones, goalkeeper
Offseason: Perth Glory, W-League (Australia)
Outlook: Backing up Harris in goal during the 2013 campaign, Jones made four appearances, facing 21 shots on goal and making 15 saves. She's an able keeper and works well with Harris and goalkeeper coach Lloyd Yaxley in training. She'll be at the ready if Harris is called up to U.S. camp to share some responsibility during double-game weeks.
Ali Krieger, defender
Offseason: Played for Tyresö FF (on loan) in the Swedish Damallsvenskan. The talented side that also included U.S. Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press, made its way into the Champions League. This was a return to the Champions League for Krieger having played in the marquee UEFA tournament for FFC Frankfurt previously. Though the club wanted to extend her contract to complete the Champions League run, Krieger departed Sweden in November at the end of her initial contract to ensure she'd be available for Spirit and U.S. Women's National Team camps. Krieger remains a constant for the U.S. defense and will obviously miss some time for the Spirit due to those duties.
Outlook: Krieger's strength and fitness is undoubtedly at an all-time high and she's improved her crossing in the last year. Krieger being pushed at the national team level could pay nice dividends for Washington. But she'll have a lot on her plate this year. She's logging a lot of game time for the U.S., already at nearly 700 minutes played, second most in the player pool. Monitoring wear and tear will be important, but Krieger has done this before and will know how to balance club and country responsibilities. (To that point, Krieger intends to play for Washington this Sunday. But she played two full 90-minute games in the last week with only one recovery day after travel so don't be shocked if she doesn't play 90 minutes this week, if at all.)
Robyn Gayle, defender
Offseason: Canadian Women's National Team
Outlook: Gayle played every position on the backline last season as the Spirit dealt with injuries. Her versatility is an asset I'm sure Parson is thrilled to have at his disposal. She's a bit of an unsung hero for Washington. She's not going to draw much attention to herself, but you can count on Gayle to be where she's needed. She also tends to not make mental mistakes and her defensive style mostly keeps her free of caution calls, which can hit a team at critical moments.
Tori Huster, defender
Offseason: Western Sydney Wanderers, W-League (Australia)
Outlook: Huster was converted (quite successfully) from midfield to central defense last season. Though she saw time in the midfield for Western Sydney, she'll stay in central defense for Washington. The ever-steady Huster has worn the captain's armband twice in the preseason; it looks like she may keep it.
Toni Pressley, defender
Offseason: Rehab and recovery from a groin injury suffered late last season.
Outlook: A midseason addition last year, Pressley was quality addition last season. Her size and strength is much needed. She scored a goal this preseason off a corner kick. Look for her to continue to mix it up in that way. If Pressley improves her distribution accuracy out of the back, and she'll be come even more dangerous.
Diana Matheson, midfielder
Offseason: Canadian Women's National Team.
Outlook: Matheson led the team in goals scored in 2013 with five. Added offensive firepower should help free her up to both create and finish more this time around. She tended to get lost sometimes last season, but with a better supporting cast, that seems less likely to happen. Regardless, Matheson is one of those special players that comes out of nowhere and amazes you, even when you don't expect it.
Lori Lindsey, midfielder
Offseason: No longer a U.S. allocation, the Washington, DC resident, signed as a free agent for this season. Lindsey recently completed a successful W-League campaign for Canberra United in Australia, earning a regular season title for the club.
Outlook: She will bring some consistency to a mostly changed midfield. It's unclear how Parsons will utilize her in light of Yael Averbuch joining the team. But look for Lindsey to be reinvigorated by not carrying quite so much play-making responsibility on her shoulders and also the ability to get more rest and keep aging legs fresh. She may not love the idea of less playing time, but it might be just what is needed to help the 34-year-old become more effective and prolong her career. At the end of last season, Lindsey just looked spent, having played an enormous number of minutes.
Caroline Miller; Colleen Williams, forward/midfielder
Offseason/Outlook: Both 2013 NCAA draft picks, will start the season on injured reserve. Miller continues her recovery from ankle reconstruction. She saw a few minutes early in preseason, but was soon back in the walking boot. Williams is coming off an ACL tear. Both are promising young talent, but the competition to make this squad is significantly higher than last season. Unless there are additional injuries to the current roster, I think it could be tough for them to break through when healthy.