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Washington Spirit announce roster decisions, place nine on NWSL Re-Entry Wire

This NWSL offseason is going to be interesting

Kelley Piper/Black and Red United

The Washington Spirit announced their offseason contract decisions today, just after the NWSL revealed the list of players available on the league’s Re-Entry Wire. Of the 19 players on that last list, 10 had contracts with the Spirit at some point in 2019. Washington confirmed that they had exercised their option on 11 players, while extending contracts to 3 more and retaining USWNT allocated players Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh.

Along with Lavelle and Pugh, the Spirit have retained their projected starting back four for next season, with Tori Huster, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, and Tegan McGrady all confirmed for next year. They’ve also exercised options on Dorian Bailey, Jordan DiBiasi, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Bayley Feist, Ashley Hatch, Cheyna Matthews, and Crystal Thomas.

The Spirit have offered new contracts to team captain Andi Sullivan, goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, and Mallory Eubanks, who missed the 2019 season while pregnant. Eubanks, who was transitioning from being a winger/forward to a fullback or wingback in 2018, was listed as a defender in the announcement.

That leaves 9 players who finished the season with Washington but now find themselves listed on the awkwardly-named Re-Entry Wire. Elise Kellond-Knight’s departure has been known for some time, as she moved back to Australia before the end of the season. She is joined by fellow Australia national team members Chloe Logarzo (who was on a one-season loan from Sydney FC) and Amy Harrison.

Of that trio, Logarzo appeared to have the best hold on a starting spot, as she came back from injury to become part of Richie Burke’s regular midfield at the end of the season. Kellond-Knight and Harrison are both midfielders by trade, but saw as much time at left back — a spot both have admitted isn’t their best position — as they did in the midfield. With Dougherty Howard a regular there, and the emergence of rookies like Feist and Bailey, both will likely pursue teams where regular minutes are more likely to be had.

Most of the rest of the group saw their minutes dwindle as the season wore on. Meg Crosson scored in the Spirit’s season opener and saw time in 6 of the club’s first 9 games this past season, but only made 3 more appearances (1 start) from that point on. Cali Farquharson was in the gameday squad 20 times out of a possible 24, but only appeared in 5 of Washington’s final 15 games on the season.

Veterans McKenzie Berryhill (3 appearances) and Tiffany McCarty (1 appearance) found playing time hard to come by all year, though McCarty did manage to score what turned out to be the Goal of the Week in a 3-0 win at Orlando near the end of the season. Grace Cutler, who was last in the NWSL as a replacement player for the Spirit during the World Cup, is also on the list, though a) she’s curiously listed as a Houston Dash player, despite never actually being on the Dash roster, and b) she signed with Sassuolo in Italy about two months ago.

That leaves two somewhat more surprising choices in the form of forward Arielle Ship and goalkeeper Shae Yanez. While Ship’s appearance total (8, with 4 starts) is not very high, she was in uniform in all but one game this season, and appeared to have solidified a role off the bench at the end of the season, even with the full compliment of attacking players available.

Yanez, who earlier this year told the Inside The 18 podcast that she was close to acquiring a Spanish passport, made one appearance in her rookie season (a cameo at the end of the aforementioned win over the Pride). With Bledsoe’s success in goal, it’s a tough spot to be a young goalkeeper in terms of getting minutes, but it was hard not to get the impression that the team was quite high on Yanez’s prospects going forward.

Today’s moves leave the Spirit with 16 players who are either under contract, allocated, or that have contract offers in hand:

Goalkeepers: Aubrey Bledsoe
Defenders: Tori Huster, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady, Mallory Eubanks
Midfielders: Rose Lavelle, Jordan DiBiasi, Andi Sullivan, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Dorian Bailey, Bayley Feist
Forwards: Mal Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Cheyna Matthews, Crystal Thomas

Teams across the NWSL have until 1:00pm Eastern tomorrow, 11/5, to submit claims on players on the Re-Entry Wire. Priority will be given to teams in reverse order of the 2019 standings, meaning that the Spirit are 5th out of 9 teams, with results set to be announced at 3:00pm tomorrow.