In a move that does not come as a major surprise, the Washington Spirit have announced that they will not retain Canada goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé’s NWSL rights for the 2018 season. The other eight NWSL teams have until 5:00pm EST today to put in a claim for the 31-year-old goalkeeper, with the NWSL Distribution Process determining which claim gets top priority.
Labbé had been with the Spirit for the past two seasons, but despite positives to start both years, she and the team appeared to be on less than ideal terms. In 2016, she returned from duty with the bronze medal-winning Canadian national team at the Rio Olympics only to find head coach Jim Gabarra preferring to keep an in-form team together rather than revert to his former starter.
After a departure was strongly rumored throughout the offseason, Labbé came back to the Soccerplex and stood on her head for a struggling Washington side early in the season, landing on the NWSL Team of the Month in April and June. However, she finished the season on medical leave from the team, with Labbé making a public statement that a mutual decision had been reached between her and the club. In the end, Labbé made 25 appearances for the Spirit.
Washington recently made a deal with the Orlando Pride that saw goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe join the Spirit. With Kelsey Wys and DiDi Haracic also under contract and rosters limited to just 20 players by NWSL rules, the writing was on the wall as far as this move goes. It remains to be seen whether the Spirit will retain all three goalkeepers, as they currently have the rights to 29 players.