The Washington Spirit have endured a strange and unpleasant 2018, and it appears that their final game of the year against Sky Blue FC is not exempt. Due to the game being scheduled for a FIFA international window, the Spirit have had to call in no fewer than six national team replacement players. Former Spirit forward Tiffany McCarty is joined on the long list of players by Alexa Newfield, Brenna Connell, Zoe Clark, Megan Crosson, and Morgan Ruhl. Pending NWSL approval, all six will likely be in uniform for the short-handed Spirit.
The Spirit’s situation as far as player availability was known to be dire once national team call-ups began to trickle in. Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle joining the USWNT was no surprise, but the U.S. under-23 squad including Mallory Eubanks, Ashley Hatch, and Andi Sullivan was not necessarily expected. That group is joined by defender/midfielder Rebecca Quinn (Canada), playmaker Estefania Banini (Argentina), and goalkeeper DiDi Haracic (Bosnia & Herzegovina).
On top of that, the Spirit have a number of injuries to grapple with. Cheyna Matthews gave birth very recently, while Tiffany Weimer remains on the DL after knee surgery. Kelsey Wys was listed as out last week due to a meniscus scope, while Tori Huster remained out with what has shifted from a heel bruise to ankle inflammation. Francisca Ordega was listed as questionable after suffering a foot contusion against the Houston Dash, but though she was in uniform against Portland Thorns FC at Audi Field last weekend, she did not participate in pre-game warm-ups.
This situation left the Spirit with, depending on Ordega’s status, either 10 or 11 players on their actual roster that could play this game. While the club has said they’re holding out hope on some players being cleared — essentially Ordega, Huster, and possibly Wys — it is likely that at least a couple replacement players will play significant minutes.
Even with the healthy players, there are things worth noting. Arielle Ship, for example, only just made her comeback from a year out with a torn ACL. Cali Farquharson has played 94 minutes this year due to a nagging shin injury, but is likely going to be called upon to play the full match on Saturday.
Three of the replacement players have existing Spirit connections. McCarty was on the club’s roster in 2013, scoring twice in 21 games, and most recently played for Medkila IL in Norway. Brenna Connell, an Olney native, has been a regular in the midfield for the Spirit Reserves sides that went unbeaten in regular season play in 2017 and 2018. Ruhl, a goalkeeper from Hereford, MD, is currently a goalkeeper coach in the Spirit’s Maryland Development Academy program (to go with her duties as an assistant with Loyola University Maryland’s team).
Ruhl is one of two players with a past in the USWNT youth national team pool. Clark, a defender/midfielder who finished her NCAA eligibility at the University of Maryland, is the other.
There are also two more players with NWSL experience in the group. Crosson, who most recently played in Spain with UD Granadilla Tenerife, made 4 appearances with the Houston Dash in 2016 before spending a year in the Japanese top flight with Speranza FC. Newfield, meanwhile, has made 25 appearances in a three-year NWSL career, all of which came with FC Kansas City. She made the initial Utah Royals FC roster before being released roughly six weeks ago.