The Washington Spirit have been busy over the past few days, kicking off their 2019 preseason and signing all five of their selections from this past January’s NWSL College Draft. The team has invited 35 players to the start of training camp, which began today at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Washington will have four preseason matches before the regular season kicks off on April 13th.
Unlike in 2018, where several draft picks ended up never signing, the Spirit opted to ink deals with all five of their picks. Defenders Sam Staab and Tegan McGrady are at this point expected to be starters this year, while midfielder Jordan DiBiasi may well join them. Interestingly, Dorian Bailey and Bayley Feist — both listed as midfielders on draft day — appear to have different paths to start their pro careers, as the Spirit are listing Bailey as a defender and Feist as a forward.
In a team release, Spirit head coach Richie Burke said “We feel we’ve drafted five top players who can all contribute right away in this league, and we believe making an immediate commitment to them is important. We’ve got five young stars of the future and I’m really looking forward to integrating them into our squad.”
Signing all five draft picks brings Washington up to 20 players under contract. NWSL rosters now allow a maximum of 22 players, plus 4 more supplemental spots for players that can be added to the roster in the case of national team absences or long-term injuries. Joanna Lohman and Cheyna Matthews are still officially out of contract, though they were offered deals back in October and are on the preseason roster. Both players are believed to be coming back for 2019, and their deals may be announced in the near future as the league sorts through the various paperwork involved.
There are two notable absences on the Spirit’s preseason roster. Taylor Smith, who tore her ACL while on loan with Newcastle Jets FC in December, is not listed, which may simply be due to her injury status. Smith’s contract status has also changed, as U.S. Soccer removed her from the list of Federation-allocated players.
We have reached out to the Spirit for clarification and will update this piece.
Update: The Spirit have clarified the situation with Smith. As her deal with the team last year was as a Federation-allocated player, she is not under contract with Washington at this point in time.
The other is Francisca Ordega, and that might not be some kind of oversight or bureaucratic technicality. Ordega has been persistently linked in the last couple of weeks to a move to the Chinese Women’s Super League. The Spirit declined to comment on the matter when contacted by B&RU, but since JW Sports 1 first reported the rumor, it has gained steam.
Elsewhere on the training camp roster, the Spirit have invited four unsigned goalkeepers, which makes sense given that Kelsey Wys was waived during the offseason, while DiDi Haracic was traded to Sky Blue FC. Aubrey Bledsoe is the lone goalkeeper under contract at the moment. It seems logical to expect Washington to sign two of the trialists, with one getting a full roster spot and another getting a supplemental spot, but their plans are not yet clear.
The group of trialists includes Sammy Jo Prudhomme (a national champion with the University of Southern California who has 2 seasons of NWSL experience), University of North Carolina and USA under-20 product Samantha Leshnak, Shae Yanez out of the University of Tennessee, and Rachel Boaz, whose path from San Diego State to Brigham Young University is a winding one.
Prudhomme isn’t the only NWSL-experienced player coming in on trial. Maryland native Tiffany McCarty, who played for the Spirit in 2013 as well as stints with the Houston Dash and FC Kansas City, is in camp. Like offseason signing Megan Crosson, McCarty was one of the national team replacement players the Spirit called in for last year’s season finale.
Another local, Virginia native Meghan Cox, had 10 appearances between spells with the Portland Thorns and Houston Dash in 2017. Defender McKenzie Berryhill has a season with Portland and two more with the Orlando Pride on her resume. Carlin Hudson was a North Carolina Courage draft pick in 2018, and though she didn’t sign a full contract with them, she trained there all year and participated in the International Champions Cup with the defending NWSL champions.
The full preseason roster is below. Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name are signed but have not yet reported to camp (a common issue due to national team commitments and relocation to the area), while those in italics are on trial.
Aubrey Bledsoe, Shae Yanez, Samantha Leshnak, Rachel Boaz, Sammy Jo Prudhomme
Megan Crosson, Mallory Eubanks, Amy Harrison*, Tegan McGrady, Sam Staab, Paige Nielsen, Dorian Bailey, McKenzie Berryhill, Jessica Davis, Carlin Hudson, Jackie Simpson, Meghan Cox
Cali Farquharson, Ashley Hatch, Arielle Ship, Mallory Pugh*, Cheyna Matthews*, Bayley Feist, MyKayla Brown, Georgia Cloepfil, Tiffany McCarty, Lana Spitler