Last season the Spirit’s leading goal-scorer, Diana Matheson, scored four goals from the run of play – the same number as all the forwards combined. Today new acquisition Tiffany Weimer matched that total in one eighty-minute scrimmage (though it may probably helped that the scrimmage was 9v9 on a reduced-size field). That was just one sign that 2014 won’t be like 2013.
Another was the return of Jordan Angeli, who opened the scoring by firing a shot from twenty yards out into the lower right corner to give the white team the initial lead. Angeli was a revelation in 2010, as a rookie for the Boston Breakers scoring seven goals – second on the team only to the legendary Kelly Smith – and earning Player of the Month honors in July. But she tore her ACL in her first game of 2011 (though not before scoring a goal) and has taken until now to recover. She was drafted by the Spirit last year but wasn’t able to play for them.
After the game, it was clear she felt she’d passed a major milestone. “Oh, my gosh. Just walking out there, being in that environment. I haven’t done that in so long. So to score, I don’t know, it was kind of like a weight was off. Now I’m playing. Now I’m really here. I’ve worked so hard for three years to get back to where I feel I should be. I feel like I should be on the field, like that’s where I belong.” She started to choke up a little at that point. “Scoring that goal was fun,” she added, sounding like she’d been waiting a very long time to have that kind of fun again. “It was fun.”
Danesha Adams didn’t score but combined well with Weimer, most notably offering up a nifty backheel that “Ocho” put away for the red team’s first goal.
Yael Averbuch was solid pairing with Angeli in the midfield. Head coach Mark Parsons: “Can you imagine having to get past those two?” Christine Nairn – one of two ASA Chesapeake Charge alumnae participating – was also solid as she vied with those two on the opposing team. Georgia’s Madeline Barker looked pretty good in an unaccustomed role as the right flank defender. Tarheel Meg Morris doesn’t even look like a soccer player – 5’2″ and built like a fireplug – but showed toughness and strong ball skills as another flank defender.
Renae Cuéllar scored the other white team goal and missed scoring a second only due to a dubious offside call (after which she gestured at the AR as if to say “I know where you live”).
Other players involved with the scrimmage but not with the professional Spirit last year included Bianca Sierra, Alexa St. Martin, Kelsey Pardue, Jennifer Skogerboe, Shasta Fisher, Gloria Douglas, Adelaide Gay, and Lyndse Hokanson (the other Charge alum). Douglas might have been the most impressive of the lot, pairing with Weimer to get a couple of assists and the one red team goal that Weimer didn’t score herself (that came when Weimer stole the ball, drove in, got the defense to commit to her, and then passed to Douglas for an easy putaway). However, she’ll have a hard time making the short list at forward given who’s ahead of her. Sierra – who played intelligently on the back line – might have a better chance in an area where the team isn’t so deep.
Crystal Dunn was on hand but didn’t play.
Among the returnees, Candace Chapman and Caroline Miller are both recovering from injuries and played about twenty minutes each before being subbed out, but they looked solid when they were out there. Lori Lindsey and Tori Huster – mainstays last year – both seemed a little rusty. Chantel Jones was decent in goal but was seldom challenged except for one shot she had to leap for to tip over the crossbar. Ali Krieger and Toni Pressley didn’t start but got some minutes in. Pressley got beat for one of Weimer’s goals, but she had considerable company there.
Not everyone participated. Ashlyn Harris was in attendance but sat on the bench, as did Colleen Williams, another recovery project. Jodie Taylor, Veronica Perez, Cecilie Sandvej, Diana Matheson, and Robyn Gayle haven’t arrived yet.
Parsons indicated that the number of triallists will be trimmed from ten to three before the team gets together again on Tuesday. (NWSL requires that rosters be down to 25 players in that timeframe.)
Weimer – who since graduating from Penn State in 2005 has played for more teams than I have fingers – was effusive about how the team chemistry was developing. “It’s been awesome, actually. The girls have come together pretty quickly. The old players have been so welcoming to the new players. It’s been a very easy transition. That’s not always the case with new teams like this. I’ve felt very comfortable with the players and the coaching staff and trying to do a lot of new things, but I think it’s been pretty cool to see the progress in a short amount of time.”
The next test for the team will come at 7 pm next Saturday as they take on the North Carolina Tarheels, again at Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland Soccerplex.
Beau Dure (SportsMyriad): Spirit preseason: Scrimmage between snowstorms
Jennifer Gordon (The Equalizer): Spirit Coach Parsons Running Camp His Way
Sarah Gehrke (The Soccer Desk): A First Glimpse at the Washington Spirit in 2014