The Washington Spirit have been without a formal head coach for months, but with the NWSL draft exactly two weeks away, things appear to have changed. The Washington Post’s Steve Goff is reporting that the team has hired Richie Burke, a Liverpool native with deep roots in the DMV soccer scene. Goff’s article also notes that the rumors of local tech CEO Steve Baldwin taking over as majority owner are true, with the team’s original owner Bill Lynch maintaining a stake in the club.
Burke, 56, came to the District to play college soccer at American before joining the American Soccer League version of the Washington Diplomats. Burke also played for the Washington Warthogs of the Continental Indoor Soccer League (where his coach was the Spirit’s last head coach, Jim Gabarra).
Since retiring to become a coach, Burke has been in charge at a wide range of local and international teams. His experience includes time within D.C. United’s academy system (including 2 years as head coach of their under-23 team), managing the Northern Virginia Royals of the Premier Development League, a post as the director of coaching with youth club FC Virginia’s boys program, and one season as the head coach of Scottish second division club Livingston FC.
The Spirit had been lead by Gabarra for nearly three seasons, but he did not survive to the end of a 2018 season that saw the club set NWSL records for consecutive minutes without a goal (765) and total goals scored (12). Assistant coach Tom Torres took over as the club’s interim boss after a 4-0 loss to the Houston Dash, guiding them through their final three games of the season. Goff’s report notes that Torres has not been let go, and will be a part of the Spirit’s staff in 2019.
Burke’s most recent coaching experience was as head coach of the National Cathedral School’s soccer team, but he has not coached women at the collegiate or professional level. Back in October, Goff reported that Spirit President and General Manager Chris Hummer had said that the team had a list of candidates including NWSL assistant coaches and someone based abroad, but it is unknown whether anyone on that list was interviewed for the job.