Richie Burke has stepped down as the Washington Spirit’s head coach today, citing health concerns. The Spirit will move forward with Kris Ward and Paul Crichton as its coaching staff in the interim, and have already begun a search for a new head coach.
In a team release, President of Sporting Operations Larry Best said “Yesterday Richie advised me of some health concerns and we mutually agreed that it was in the best interests of him and of the club for him to step down as our coach. Once Richie’s health improves, he will join the sporting operations front office staff.”
Burke’s time in charge of the Spirit began just as an ownership change lead by Steve Baldwin started to remake the club after two down years. A focus on possession-oriented soccer and acquiring top young players through the draft followed, with the Spirit often threatening to break into the NWSL’s upper echelon. During his tenure as head coach, Washington posted a 19W-14D-17L record across all competitions.
There had been no outward signs of an issue for Burke, whose previously reported health issues had consisted of a team joke placing him on the injury report after a slip on the sideline had caused a thigh injury. Burke and Baldwin have both often spoken of a three-year plan since they came to the club in 2019, and in 2021 that was extended to discussion of a five-year vision for the club’s future.
It is not immediately clear who the Spirit will be considering to take over. With major ambitions and an ownership group consisting of dozens, they are certainly well-connected, but it is very likely that Washington was not spending much time considering who Burke’s future replacement would be.