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Washington Spirit 2014 Preview Part 3: New Faces

Head Coach Mark Parsons has added no less than 12 new players to the Spirit roster this season, with another one or two on the way.

Tiffany Weimer (right) during a Spirit presason match against UNC
Tiffany Weimer (right) during a Spirit presason match against UNC
Cynthia Hobgood

Washington prepares for a Sunday home opener at the Maryland SoccerPlex against Western New York, one day after the second NWSL season kicks off.

Revisit our Season Outlook preview here and see what the returning players have been up to since last season here.

Finally, let's meet the new faces that have joined the Washington Spirit.

Crystal Dunn, midfielder

How acquired: Owning the top pick in the NCAA draft, Washington selected Dunn (and she has since been designated a U.S. allocation.)

Previous experience: Dunn has eight caps for the U.S. senior team and was part of the Under-20 team that won the Under-20 Women's World Cup in 2012. As a junior at the University of North Carolina, she won the MAC Hermann Trophy while leading North Carolina to the NCAA title.

Outlook: There is no denying Dunn is a very special talent. While logging time primarily on defense for the U.S. until now, Dunn is expected to play midfield for Parsons. She's coming off of a fairly serious ankle sprain, and just saw her first 45 minutes in the Spirit's last preseason match. But she immediately made an impact, assisting on a goal and scoring. There is no doubt speed is Dunn's greatest asset. Pairing Dunn as a right winger in front of the also speedy Krieger is likely to result in some dizzying overlapping runs, and potential nightmares for opposing coaches. Ironically, recently dismissed U.S. Coach Tom Sermanni had Krieger and Dunn in competition at right outside back for much of 2013. Look for Dunn to state her case as a midfielder during the NWSL season. I'm sure Parsons will be more than happy to oblige. What will be fun to watch is how quickly she integrates into the Washington attack.

Yael Averbuch, midfielder

How acquired: U.S. allocation.

Previous experience: Averbuch most recently played for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC in the Swedish Damallsvenskan from 2012-13. In the first part of 2012 she played for WFC Rossiyanka in Russia. From 2009-10, Averbuch played for Sky Blue FC in the WPS and for 2011 WPS Champion Western NY Flash.

Outlook: Averbuch is a technical specialist who will play a vital role in in the Spirit midfield and on set pieces. She's also 5'10" -- giving Washington the height it was sorely lacking last season. Averbuch is also a tremendous advocate and ambassador for the sport. She's just a fantastic addition to the club, both on and off the field.

Jodie Taylor, forward

How Acquired: Spirit acquired Taylor's discovery rights (along with Renae Cuéllar) from Seattle in a trade that sent the rights to Nikki Marshall and Alina Garciamendez, along with a selection in the 2014 NCAA draft.

Previous experience: Taylor most recently played for Australian club Sydney FC in the Westfield W-League, scoring 12 goals in 12 appearances. The 27-year-old brings diverse club experience to the Spirit, having played in a variety of international leagues. Other club teams have included the Pali Blues (USL W-League), Melbourne Victory (W-League, Australia), Birmingham City (FA Women's Super League, England), Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC (Damallsvenskan, Sweden.)

Outlook: It doesn't take long watching Taylor play to see why she has turned so many heads recently. She's a very active player and tends to just create a lot of confusion while often ending up in the right spot at the right time. The Spirit will need her to keep the goal-scoring going. If she does, look for Washington to be a significantly more potent offense than last season.

Renae Cuéllar, forward

How acquired: Part of the trade involving Taylor (see above.)

Previous experience: Last season Cuéllar, allocated from Mexico, scored five goals in 18 games last season, splitting time between FC Kansas City and Seattle. Cuellar spent the first part of the NWSL offseason with Swedish club Kristianstads DFF.

Outlook: Cuellar is a player with great potential and has a chance to make a big impact on the Spirit. She tends to be a bit streaky, but if she can remain a consistent part of the offense, she could turn out to be a significant addition to the club. She has decent acceleration that will prove to be a real asset if the Spirit midfield can distribute the ball effectively.

Jordan Angeli, midfielder

How acquired: Selected Angeli in the 2013 NWSL Supplemental Draft.

Previous experience: While selected by Washington in 2013, Angeli was recovering from knee surgery and did not play. Her last professional soccer was played in 2011 for the WPS Boston Breakers. During the team's first regular season match, suffered her third career ACL tear just 29 minutes into the Breakers' first regular season match. In 2010, Angeli scored seven goals and recorded 1,576 minutes of play for the Breakers.

Outlook: Every preseason take on Angeli has started with "If she's healthy..." I'm going to give Angeli the benefit of the doubt. She's clearly put the work in to get back to game fitness. Her attitude is amazing. She as grateful as you'd expect for the opportunity and clearly just loving playing the game again. That kind of passion is only going to help the team. Let's give her some time back and we'll soon know exactly how big her role will be.

Tiffany Weimer, forward

How acquired: Via trade with Portland

Previous experience: Parsons made a wise move to get Weimer, who has tons of experience playing all over the world. Last season she scored one goal in 10 regular season games on a loaded Portland roster, adding a game-tying goal in the semifinal against Kansas City that Portland went on to win. Prior to that she played for Fortuna Hjørring (Danish Elitedivisionen) from 2012-13, scoring a team-high 11 goals, as the club reached the Round of 16 in the UEFA Women's Champions League. From 2009-10, she played for FC Gold Pride and the Boston Breakers in the WPS before transferring in 2010 to AIK (Sweden) for the second half of the Damallsvenskan season. Weimer has also played in Finland and Brazil. Last but not least, off a stellar Penn State career, Weimer actually had one previous stint in Washington for the Freedom in 2006 playing a set of exhibition matches against W-League opponents. (Don't you feel like you just took a trip around the world?)

Outlook: All of that varied experience and adaptability is nothing but gold for Washington. Fans new to Weimer can look for the signature headband flashing around the field, likely scoring goals. She's another player that's just spectacular for chemistry.

Christine Nairn, midfielder

How acquired: As part of the larger trade involving Cuéllar and Taylor, Washington acquired Nairn from Seattle in exchange for discovery rights to Kim Little.

Previous Experience: Nairn, 23, was selected by the Reign with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NWSL College Draft. She started all 22 games and played 1,926 minutes during the 2013 NWSL season. Another Penn State alum (along Weimer and Krieger for the Spirit), the Annapolis, MD native scored three goals and led Seattle with five assists during her rookie season.

Outlook: I expected Nairn would be Washington's top pick in last year's NCAA draft. Then head coach Mike Jordan instead went with forward Tiffany McCarty. Nairn's skill and toughness will give the Spirit a nice edge. Nairn led the league in crosses with 47 (Krieger was tops for the Spirit with 21), and was successful setting up scoring chances, tallying five assists.

Danesha Adams, forward

How acquired: After being selected by Houston in Supplemental Draft, Adams was acquired in a one-for-one trade with Houston in exchange for Ochs.

Previous experience: Adams spent 2013 with Sky Blue FC, where she played 20 games, tallying three goals and three assists. Adams has previously played for the Chicago Red Stars and Philadelphia Independence in 2009 and 2010. While at UCLA, the team reached four straight NCAA College Cups and won the Pac-10 Championship every year. She holds the school record for scoring during the NCAA Tournament with 41 points.

Outlook: Adams' performance last season was a bit uneven. An impending presence, she just didn't seem to click particularly well with Lisa De Vanna. In trading for Adams, Parsons was looking for a bit more experience, which Adams has. Her size is a bonus as Washington has now officially shed its lacking in height distinction. Adams seemed to pair well with Weimer in the preseason, which is a great sign for the future.

Niki Cross, defender

How acquired: Free agent signing.

Previous experience: Cross currently plays for FC Bayern Munich in the German Frauen-Bundesliga. In the 2012-13 she started 22 matches playing a total of 1,953 minutes, helping her team win the DFB-Pokal Cup. Prior to joining FC Bayern Munich, Cross played for Medkila IL, in Norway making 7 appearances and scoring one goal in 2011. In 2011, she joined the Boston Breakers making 6 appearances in the WPS. From 2009-10 she played with Saint Louis Athletica (WPS). In 2008, Cross played with Swedish club Umeå Södra FF. At the University of Connecticut between 2003 and 2006, she led her team to the national championship game and was named to the MAC Hermann trophy shortlist as a senior

Outlook: A professional sine 2009, Cross is another addition that brings great experience to the club. With Bayern Munich, she's being consistently going up again some of the best players in the world for the last several seasons. This will be her first return to a U.S. club team since playing for Boston in 2011, a nice get for Parsons. She'll join the team in June.

Cecilie Sandvej, defender

How acquired: Free agent signing

Previous experience: Sandvej most recently played for Perth Glory FC in the Australian W-League making 11 appearances. Between 2009 and 2013, Sandvej, 23, was a member of Danish Women's Elite Division league with Brøndby IF and helped her team win three national titles. She has played in the Danish National U17, U19, U23 and senior teams.

Outlook: I've barely gotten a look at Sanjvej...just a couple of preseason matches. But she's quick, unafraid to push forward on the outside, and appears to be a good addition to the defense.

Veronica Perez, midfielder

How acquired: Western New York traded Perez and a 2015 fourth-round draft pick to Washington in exchange for 2014 and 2015 international roster spots.

Previous experience: Perez has played for Mexico since 2010 and scored the winning goal to beat the U.S. in 2011 Women's World Cup Qualifying. She played in all 22 games for Western New York last season, scoring one goal (against Washington, actually).

Outlook: Perez is another experienced addition to the club. Parsons was clearly making moves to even out what was a relatively young club last season. Unsure exactly what Perez's role will be in this now much more competitive midfield. I look for her to likely be a role player.

Bianca Sierra, defender

How acquired: Free agent signing

Previous experience: Though she has played for the Mexico senior women's national team since 2012, the California native won't count against the international player limit. Throughout her college career at Auburn University (2010-2013), Sierra played in 85 matches, starting in 66. She scored five goals as a defender and assisted in seven, recording a total of 6,457 minutes of playing time.

Outlook: I've only seen Sierra play twice. The first time, she was part of a Mexico defense getting torn up by Sydney Leroux's four goals at RFK Stadium last September. But let's forget that. Sierra had an impressive preseason and really won over Parsons and made the roster somewhat unpredictably. Again, she'll add depth to the defense that just didn't exist last season, especially until Pressley and Abegg were brought in.

Adelaide Gay, goalkeeper

How acquired: Free agent signing

Previous experience: Won a national title with North Carolina in 2012. Spent last season with Portland but did not get any playing time in the 2013 NWSL season. Though she is currently listed on the main roster, she is expected start the season playing with the Washington Spirit Reserves.

Outlook: Gay is the odd man out...again. But she was a great pickup. Not many clubs can claim a #3 goalkeeper of this quality. Playing on the reserves puts her in a position to keep her skills sharp.