With the start of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup looming, the Washington Spirit have announced both their roster for the tournament and their 2022 regular season schedule. The Spirit will split their 11 regular season home games between Audi Field and Segra Field, with six being played in the District and five in Leesburg, 40 miles to the west.
The Spirit’s roster announcement came with some news. The club says they have offered a contract to veteran defender Amber Brooks, while a tweet from the team account indicates that goalkeeper Sydney Schneider is no longer with the team. Sources have told B&RU that the Spirit pursued loan opportunities for Schneider to get more playing time, but ultimately it was decided the best solution was to let her pursue those minutes without the complications of a loan.
The moves leave the Spirit with 26 players on their Challenge Cup roster, though only 25 will be available to play. Tori Huster remains out due to a torn achilles tendon suffered in last year’s playoffs, while Brooks is on the roster despite not having her contract officially done and dusted.
Of the Spirit’s draft class, Washington has already signed attacker Tinaya Alexander, while Jordan Thompson suffered a knee injury early in the preseason. Lucy Shepherd and Audrey Harding were with the team throughout the preseason and, with the season overlapping with a major international window in July (which may see ten or more Spirit players called up for various national teams in CONCACAF and Europe), may still be in the picture for national team replacement player deals or further evaluation before the start of the regular season. Maddie Elwell could end up in that category as well once she completes her studies at Vanderbilt.
The Spirit roster for the Challenge Cup, which runs from March 19 to May 7, is as follows:
Goalkeepers (3): Aubrey Kingsbury, Devon Kerr, Nicole Barnhart
Defenders (9): Sam Staab, Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Morgan Goff, Camryn Biegalski, Alia Martin, Karina Rodriguez, Julia Roddar, Amber Brooks*
Midfielders (8): Jordan Baggett, Andi Sullivan, Bayley Feist, Dorian Bailey, Anna Heilferty, Taylor Aylmer, Gaby Vincent, Tori Huster (SEI)
Forwards (6): Trinity Rodman, Averie Collins, Ashley Sanchez, Ashley Hatch, Tara McKeown, Tinaya Alexander (CDP, INT - ENG)
Players not under contract marked with an asterisk.
Washington’s regular season schedule will start with a true showcase, facing OL Reign — arguably the toughest challenger for the Spirit in their quest to repeat as champions — on Sunday, May 1 at Audi Field. Broadcast details for that game, and the rest of the league’s slate, have yet to be announced, but it would not be a surprise if CBS chose this match for a bigger stage.
However, May 7’s game in Chicago against the Red Stars is bafflingly uncertain to some degree, as the NWSL has opted to schedule the Challenge Cup final that very same day. If the Spirit were to advance out of their group in that tournament, they’d face a short-rest Challenge Cup semifinal on Wednesday, May 4, and then possibly the task of a rescheduled league match to open May 7 up for the final. If the Spirit were to host the final, there would be the added organizational difficulty of selling tickets to a supposedly important game on extremely short notice.
Aside from that utterly avoidable own goal from the league, the regular season will consist of 22 games, down from 24. This means the NWSL will have a truly balanced schedule, with the Spirit playing each of the other 11 teams in the league once at home, and once away. The regular season will start April 29, with Angel City FC hosting the North Carolina Courage, and run until October 2. The playoffs will fit entirely into October, with the 2022 championship scheduled for October 29.
Washington will start the season with a difficult slate. Their first seven games feature two clashes against the Reign as well as two more against the Chicago Red Stars, who the Spirit defeated in last year’s championship. They’ll also face the always daunting trip to Oregon to face the Portland Thorns on short rest, which will be immediately followed by the second match against OL Reign, this one at Lumen Field.
That early run will also see the Spirit’s first-ever meeting with Angel City, who come to Audi Field May 15. Washington won’t face the other new expansion team, San Diego Wave FC, until July 3, when they travel to Torero Stadium.
The schedule does come with obstacles for the Spirit. While the NWSL did cut down on games taking place during FIFA international windows, July’s CONCACAF W Championship and European qualifiers will in all likelihood mean the Spirit are very short-handed for three matches (July 3 at San Diego, and home games on July 10 and July 17 against Kansas City Current and the NC Courage, respectively).
Puzzlingly, the team also has three of its five Segra Field matches from June 1-17, despite the fact that D.C. United has no scheduled MLS matches at all during that spell. July 10 against KC and August 10 against Portland are the other two games in Leesburg, on a turf surface that the Spirit have struggled to play their best soccer on. Washington’s record at Segra Field is 2W-0D-4L, with just seven goals scored.
Despite the schedule release today, the Spirit’s 2022 plans are not completely settled. By winning the 2021 championship, they have qualified for the Women’s International Champions Cup. While no official information has been released about the tournament, Spirit coach Kris Ward has brought it up in talking about planning this season, and it appears to be scheduled for August in Portland. Notably, the Spirit do not have an NWSL match scheduled during that time, going 17 days between their August 10 match against the Thorns and an August 27 away game against the Houston Dash.
The full Spirit regular season schedule is as follows:
2022 Washington Spirit regular season schedule
|Game||Day||Date||Home team||Away team||Time (Eastern)||Venue|
|Game||Day||Date||Home team||Away team||Time (Eastern)||Venue|
|1||Sunday||May 1||Washington Spirit||OL Reign||5:00 PM||Audi Field|
|2||Saturday||May 7||Chicago Red Stars||Washington Spirit||8:00 PM||SeatGeek Stadium|
|3||Sunday||May 15||Washington Spirit||Angel City FC||5:00 PM||Audi Field|
|4||Wednesday||May 18||Portland Thorns||Washington Spirit||10:00 PM||Providence Park|
|5||Sunday||May 22||OL Reign||Washington Spirit||6:00 PM||Lumen Field|
|6||Friday||May 27||Orlando Pride||Washington Spirit||7:00 PM||Exploria Stadium|
|7||Wednesday||June 1||Washington Spirit||Chicago Red Stars||7:30 PM||Segra Field|
|8||Saturday||June 4||NJ/NY Gotham FC||Washington Spirit||7:00 PM||Red Bull Arena|
|9||Saturday||June 11||Washington Spirit||North Carolina Courage||7:00 PM||Segra Field|
|10||Friday||June 17||Washington Spirit||Racing Louisville FC||7:30 PM||Segra Field|
|11||Sunday||July 3||San Diego Wave||Washington Spirit||5:00 PM||Torero Stadium|
|12||Sunday||July 10||Washington Spirit||Kansas City Current||5:00 PM||Segra Field|
|13||Sunday||July 17||Washington Spirit||Orlando Pride||5:00 PM||Audi Field|
|14||Friday||July 29||North Carolina Courage||Washington Spirit||7:30 PM||Sahlen's Stadium|
|15||Friday||August 5||Racing Louisville||Washington Spirit||8:00 PM||Lynn Family Stadium|
|16||Wednesday||August 10||Washington Spirit||Portland Thorns||7:30 PM||Segra Field|
|17||Saturday||August 27||Houston Dash||Washington Spirit||8:30 PM||PNC Stadium|
|18||Saturday||September 10||Washington Spirit||San Diego Wave||5:00 PM||Audi Field|
|19||Saturday||September 17||Washington Spirit||NJ/NY Gotham FC||7:00 PM||Audi Field|
|20||Wednesday||September 21||Angel City FC||Washington Spirit||10:30 PM||Banc of California Stadium|
|21||Sunday||September 25||Kansas City Current||Washington Spirit||5:00 PM||Children's Mercy Park|
|22||Saturday||October 1||Washington Spirit||Houston Dash||7:00 PM||Audi Field|