The Spirit District: Washington Spirit season preview

Michael Chang

Washington are underdogs in NWSL's inaugural season, but they're not without talent.

This Washington squad will play with a fighting ... Spirit. Get it? Okay, sorry, we're done.

Each position has a set of star players that will assist in advancing the team to the NWSL playoffs. The sets might rely heavily upon their star forwards as this is where their strength lies. Stephanie Ochs, Jasmyne Spencer, Caroline Miller and Tiffany McCarty are superb in their roles as forwards and will bring hope to the scoreboard for the squad. During their preseason they used a 4-3-3 formation and they might continue with this setup during the early stages of the league.

The Goalkeepers

Ashlyn Harris has endured a rocky career as a goalkeeper. She has tended to numerous injuries during her college and professional career but she continued to persevere. She was called up to the U.S. senior squad in 2009, but didn't do more than participate in training camps and sit on the bench until 2012. Following a string of injuries affecting Hope Solo and Jill Loyden, Harris received her first cap for the U.S. squad at the 2013 Algarve Cup.

Harris has three NCAA National Championship titles to add to her name as a contributing member of the North Carolina Tar Heels. In the early stages of WPS shortly before St. Louis Athletica disbanded, she was selected by them in the draft. Unfortunately she received no playing time for the Athletica, but after they folded Harris moved to the Washington Freedom. With the Freedom she earned nine appearances following an injury to Erin McLeod. Harris recorded four shutouts and only allowed 10 goals. The following year she earned the WPS Goalkeeper of the Year award during the 2011 season with the Western New York Flash, with whom they won a league title. As WPS folded, Harris moved to Germany and played for FCR 2001 Duisburg.

A former starting goalkeeper for the University of Virginia, Chantel Jones, holds an intimidating record at her alma mater. She concluded her collegiate career with 47 shutouts and a 0.77 GAA in her senior year. Jones has experienced obstacles when trying to sustain a professional career as a goalkeeper. Following her college career she trained with Sky Blue during their 10-day tour in Japan. Shortly after, she would sign up with the Icelandic club Thor to make 18 appearances for the club. She is a more than competent backup for Harris.

Expect [Krieger] to start at right back, where she'll be just as important to the Spirit's attack as she is to their defense.

The Defenders

Ali Krieger is a versatile player and the Spirit's biggest star. Expect her to start at right back, where she'll be just as important to the Spirit's attack as she is to their defense. Krieger spent five years overseas playing for FFC Frankfurt. In 2007, as a starter for the club, she won the German Cup. She's had two previous stints in the D.C. area in her career, playing for the Spirit's predecessor, the Washington Freedom.

Candace Chapman is a two time WPS champion with FC Gold Pride and the Flash, and she had signed with Sky Blue FC prior to WPS folding. Prior to winning the 2010 WPS championship title, she had played for the Boston Breakers as a discovery player. In addition to winning two championship titles, she is also a two-time Olympian for the Canadian national team where she plays as a center back. She is considered to be one of their star players as she has received 103 starts and been a member of the squad since 2002.

Switching positions is nothing new to Domenica Hodak, who moved from the midfield into a center back position in her senior year at Maryland. Her transition to the back line was successful, and she's expected to continue playing defense for the Spirit.

Kika Toulouse has played overseas and, recently, with the U.S. under-23 squad in the Three Nations Tournament in Norwary. Toulouse moved to Sweden to play with Ragsveds IF and scored nine goals for the team in 2012.

Robyn Gayle is an active player on the field and usually plays as a fullback for the Canadian National Team. She's likely to start at left back for the Spirit. As a Tar Heel she won the Defensive MVP award at the College Cup during her senior year. She is a constant fixture on the Canadian national team and has received 71 caps for the team.

The Midfielders

Lori Lindsey is a strong athlete who has been in and out of the USWNT in recent years. She has played for the Washington Freedom on three occasions, in WUSA, WPS and the W-League. She also played for the Philadelphia Independence and was set to play for the Flash before WPS folded. Expect her to start in the center of midfield for the Spirit.

Diana Matheson is a great attacking force on the field, and should play ahead of Lindsey as a more attacking midfielder. Matheson has been a driving force for the Canadian national team in recent years and scored the game-winning goal in the bronze medal game at the 2012 Olympics. In total she has 13 goals for the national team in 140 starts and 150 total appearances.

There is much to like about Victoria Huster, who was a consistent performer in college and the W-League. At Florida State as a midfielder she netted 20 goals and 19 assists in 91 starts. She was the second round pick for the Flash in the 2012 WPS season and later went on to play for the Newcastle Jets.

Julia Roberts is tall and fast and played previously for Seattle Sounders Women. As a midfielder for the Virginia Cavaliers she notched 13 goals and 15 assists. She's a versatile midfielder and could be a useful impact sub for the Spirit in any game situation.

Ingrid Wells logged 24 assists and 14 goals during her career at Georgetown, where she was the 2011 Big East Player of the Year. Following her college career, she went overseas to play with Goteborg FC in Sweden. She has received 19 appearances for the club and won the Svenska Cupen Women.

The Forwards

The Washington Spirit scored big time by picking up forward Tiffany McCarty in this year's NWSL College Draft. She arrives at the Spirit camp fresh off a successful senior season, where she won the ACC Offensive Player of the Year award at Florida State. She was also a two-time Hermann Trophy semifinalist in her college career. In 98 appearances for the Seminoles, she netted 63 goals and 24 assists with 17 goals arriving in her senior year.

This squad does have a lot of options but one member that stands out is Caroline Miller. She possesses a similar collegiate background to McCarty as both were Hermann Trophy semi-finalists and both hold an ACC Offensive Player of the Year award. If the Spirit stick with three up top, she's likely to start regularly this season. Miller score 20 goals in her senior year alone. She recorded 45 goals and 19 assists during her four years at Virginia.

Stephanie Ochs joins Washington after a successful run with the U.S. under-23 team. Ochs enjoyed a successful senior year with San Diego, where she tallied 25 goals and 31 assists in 86 appearances. Back in March, she scored a game-winning goal against England for the under-23 squad.

Jasmyne Spencer comes to the Spirit after a successful collegiate career as a forward for Maryland, where she racked up 22 goals and 14 assists in 76 appearances.

Colleen Williams is an attacking player who can play as either a forward or a midfielder. She recently completed her collegiate career with the University of Dayton as a forward accumulating 58 goals and 50 assists. She will likely start the season as a substitute, where she could make an impact coming off the bench to play multiple positions.

The Spirit don't have the volume of big-name players as their competitors in NWSL, but the three Canadian international players on the team are very accomplished, and they're loaded with young talent that should only get better as the season progresses.

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