Category Archives: W-League

Playoffs at the ‘Plex

Lori Lindsey holds off Marta, from a gameday program cover for the last team to have a women's professional soccer match at the 'Plex, the 2009 Washington Freedom.

Lori Lindsey holds off Marta, from a gameday program cover for the last team to have a women’s professional soccer playoff match at the ‘Plex, the 2009 Washington Freedom.

Based on what I’ve read on Twitter and elsewhere, Spirit fans have a definite glass-half-empty feeling about losing the first-place spot the last weekend of the season after having held it for several weeks previously. But look on the bright side: this is the best regular-season finish in the history of Washington women’s professional soccer.

Yes, Abby Wambach never managed it in four years here. Heck, Wambach and Mia Hamm combined never managed it. But this bunch of no-names – certainly with no one of the marquee value of the aforementioned – did the job.

However, though this Friday’s home playoff match is a first for the Spirit, it’s not a first for Washington (or the Soccerplex). Back in 2009, the Freedom finished third in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) on the strength of a 4-1-1 finish to the season, which included a barnburner, 4-4 match against Sky Blue at Yurcak Field that the Freedom tied up in the final minutes off a goal from Cat Whitehill. (I got held up at halftime behind the stands chatting with someone at that match and got back late only to find that I’d missed not one but two goals.) It’s a team with a few players familiar to Spirit fans: Joanna Lohman, Lori Lindsey, and Ali Krieger were all on the roster.
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Washington Spirit Farm Teams: Where Are They Now?

2015 USL W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves

2015 USL W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves

One year ago today – well, besides a certain team winning a world championship – the Washington Spirit Reserves and the Braddock Road Stars Elite (now the Washington Spirit Academy) faced each other close to full-strength. There were numerous players to watch on both rosters, so I made a record of the names and vowed to come back once a year to review where the players are now. So here’s the first entry:

Playing professionally in the NWSL: Caroline Casey (Sky Blue), Carson Pickett* (Seattle Reign).

Playing professionally overseas: Kara Wilson (Speranza FC Osaka Takatsuki, Japan), Sarah Zadrazil (Turbine Potsdam, Germany), Amber Stobbs (Reading FC, England).
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The League is Dead! Long Live the League!

United Women’s Soccer Rises from the Ashes of the W-League

The USL W-League set the standard for elite women’s amateur (and occasionally professional) soccer since its founding in 1995. So it was a great disappointment when the league – after losing teams for several years – folded last November. That left the Women’s Premier Soccer League as the only second-tier league in the United States, and the WPSL, while vast (103 teams this year), has a reputation more for allowing any team in that can afford the dues than maintaining high standards.

Into the breach stepped a number of teams frustrated with the situation, led by the New England Mutiny, who had already expressed dissatisfaction with the WPSL in a late-season press release.
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Requiem for the W-League

The New Jersey Wildcats were the W-League team to beat in the mid-2000s. This is the 2005 championship team. Recognize some familiar faces?

The New Jersey Wildcats were the W-League team to beat in the mid-2000s. This is the 2005 championship team. Recognize some familiar faces?

Where would we be without the W-League? Morgan Brian, Lori Chalupny, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Amy Rodriguez. Those are the only players on the world champion US National Team who never played in the W-League. Everyone else – from Carli Lloyd to Becky Sauerbrunn to Abby Wambach – honed their craft at that level before moving on up. (26 additional players for Canada and Mexico’s WWC teams also had W-League experience.)

The W-League was founded in 1995 with 19 teams from the Boston Tornado to the San Diego Lady Top Guns, with two teams folding during the course of the season. Despite several west coast teams leaving after the 1997 season to form the WPSL, the league grew to the point where by 1998 it had 34 teams in two levels. The two-table setup continued through 2001, when the league had 38 teams.

The league took a hit in 2001, when the WUSA formed and gave the best women players the opportunity to play professionally. Of the 120 players in the initial draft, at least 37 had played previously in the W-League. As for the Founders – the 24 players who formed the core of the league, based on the team that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup – at least a third had played in the W-League, including Kristine Lilly, Cindy Parlow, Tracy Ducar, Sara Whalen, Christie Rampone, Danielle Fotopoulos, Tisha Venturini, and Siri Mullinix.
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Washington Spirit Reserves Down Colorado Pride, 2-1, Win W-League Championship

2015 USL W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves

2015 USL W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves (photo courtesy of Amber Stobbs)

For five years the Washington Spirit Reserves have been one of the class teams of the W-League. But in the post-season they’ve always been the bridesmaid, second or third while someone wins the crown. No more.

Today they claimed the W-League Championship in a tight, hard-fought battle with the Colorado Pride on two goals from Chilean National Teamer Yanara Aedo, the game-winner coming in the 89th minute.

On paper, it appeared that the Reserves had the stronger roster overall, though the Pride had both the better goalkeeper in W-League Goalkeeper of the Year Britt Eckerstrom and the most dangerous attacking player in Tara Andrews, the league’s leading scorer, leading goal scorer, and Most Valuable Player. In a game in which one big save or one opportunistic goal could turn the tide, there was no clear advantage. And certainly the Pride weren’t going to be intimidated by a strong roster after dealing with the Los Angeles Blues last year and the Seattle Sounders Women this year.

And that’s about the way it played out. Washington generally had the better of the play in the midfield but didn’t have the close-in teamwork or the killer instinct to get the ball in the net. Players would send in through balls without anyone making a run or with the run not matching where the ball was sent. Meanwhile, at the other end, Andrews lurked at the edge of the defensive line ready to pounce.
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Spirit Reserves, Colorado Pride to Play for W-League Championship

To few people’s surprise, the favored Washington Spirit Reserves and Colorado Pride won their semifinal matches tonight and will face each other on Sunday for the trophy. What was a surprise were the scores. Top seed Washington struggled to get past fourth-seeded Quebec Dynamo ARSQ, 1-0, despite the Dynamo being down to 10 players with a field player as goalkeeper the final 14 minutes. On the other hand #2 Colorado thrashed the #3 seed and hosts Laval Comets, 4-0, and it could easily have been more.
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Washington and the W-League: A Brief History

As the Washington Spirit Reserves conclude the 10th season of Washington teams’ formal involvement in the USL W-League, I thought this would be a good time to look back at what led up to this.

To put this history in context, we have to go back to 2004. The WUSA had ceased operations in 2003 and but for a few fruitless “WUSA Festivals” the following year would exist no more. However, Washington Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra and assistant coach Clyde Watson – presumably with some financial help from John and Maureen Hendricks – kept the team name going, the only one of the eight WUSA teams to do so. (The Boston Breakers may claim heritage back to the WUSA era, but they did not exist in any form in the several years between WUSA and WPS.)
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W-League Final Four Preview

The contenders for the W-League championship have been whittled down to four. In order of seeding, they are: the Washington Spirit Reserves, the Colorado Pride, the Laval Comets, and the Quebec Dynamo ARSQ. Laval – a suburb of Montreal – is hosting the tournament at Desjardins Stadium. The semifinals are on Friday with Quebec facing Washington at 5 and Laval meeting Colorado at 7:30. The consolation game is Sunday at noon followed by the championship at 2:30.
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W-League: Spirit Reserves punch ticket to Final Four

For the fourth year in a row, the Washington Spirit Reserves (née DC United Women) will play in the four-team W-League Championship Weekend after downing the Braddock Road Stars Elite, 2-0.

The match was pretty much a must-win for the Reserves as a tie or loss would have allowed the Charlotte Lady Eagles to claim the conference championship with a win in their final game. I came in figuring that the worst-case scenario for Washington was a 0-0 draw as I didn’t see the attack-starved home team scoring on a back line anchored by U-23 national teamer Andi Sullivan.
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W-League: Spirit Reserves close to playoff spot

The Washington Spirit Reserves approached the Fourth of July weekend at the top of the Southeastern Conference but with the knowledge that any slip could leave them without control of their outcome. Three games later and with one game to go they’re still in the same situation: in control but only barely.
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