The Washington Spirit, D.C.’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team, won their opening game 1-0 against OL Reign on Mar. 27. Trinity Rodman’s superb goal gave the Spirit the win at Audi Field in a promising start to the 2023 season. The Spirit followed that up with a 2-2 draw at Racing Louisville on Apr 1. and are currently third in the NWSL. Here’s a short preview of the Spirit’s upcoming season.
League on the Rise
The NWSL has been gaining popularity recently, and the 2023 season looks set to be one of the best ever for the league. EA Sports included the NWSL in the popular soccer video game FIFA for the first time this year. More than 90,000 fans attended 2023 opening weekend NWSL games, a league record. The Washington Spirit are playing all of their home games at Audi Field this season, whereas in previous seasons the Spirit played some games at smaller stadiums in Maryland and Virginia. All these developments indicate that women’s soccer is on the rise in the United States–and in Washington D.C.
Players to Keep an Eye On:
Trinity Rodman: Rodman is a standout winger for the Spirit, who scored a fantastic goal to win the Spirit’s opening game. The Washington State graduate recorded 7 goals and 7 assists in her standout rookie season in 2021; she won the NWSL Rookie of the Year award and the US Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) named her Young Female Player of the Year. Rodman has made 15 appearances for the USWNT and scored 2 goals. Her athleticism, dribbling skills, and scoring prowess make her a dangerous attacker for the Washington Spirit.
Ashley Sanchez: Sanchez, who played college soccer at UCLA, is a star attacking midfielder for the Spirit. She led the team with 5 assists in the 2022 season. Sanchez has made 22 USWNT appearances and is a rising star for the team. She is a creative and technical midfielder who can create chances out of nothing.
Andi Sullivan: Sullivan was the first overall pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft out of Stanford and has been an anchor in the midfield for the Spirit ever since. The defensive midfielder plays a crucial role for the USWNT because Julie Ertz, normally the first choice defensive midfielder, hasn’t played since the 2021 Olympics. Sullivan is one of the more experienced Spirit players, so she will captain the team for the upcoming season.
Aubrey Kingsbury: The Spirit’s goalkeeper made her 100th regular season appearance at the Mar. 23 game. Kingsbury (formerly Bledsoe) won NWSL Goalkeeper of the year in 2019 and 2021, and has been a consistent and reliable presence in goal for the Spirit. Kingsbury will bring important experience and stability to the Spirit this season.
April 19 @ Gotham FC
This is the Spirit’s first match in the Challenge Cup, the NWSL’s midseason tournament, so it will set the tone for their Cup performance. Additionally, Gotham FC and the Spirit are fierce East Coast rivals who always play intense and entertaining matches when they face each other.
August 27 vs. Portland Thorns
The Thorns are the defending NWSL Champions, so the Spirit should face a tough test in this home match. This game is at the end of the season, so it could be crucial in determining the NWSL Champion.
FiveThirtyEight’s NWSL predictions have the Portland Thorns finishing first in the league and the Washington Spirit finishing fifth. Their analysis says that the Spirit only have an eight percent chance of winning the league. I (as a biased Spirit fan) am much more optimistic about the team’s chances. I think the Spirit are poised for a breakout season; their young stars are becoming more comfortable in the league, and the team’s veteran players have the experience to help them flourish. Trinity Rodman is an unstoppable goal scoring machine, and I predict she will score at least ten goals for the Spirit. Recently, Andi Sullivan has gotten a lot of valuable USWNT experience that will help her excel for her team. Ashley Sanchez will provide a creative spark and Aubrey Kingsbury will be dependable as always. That’s why I’m predicting that the Washington Spirit will win the NWSL in 2023. Even if I’m not right, though, it’s certainly shaping up to be an exciting season that will be well worth watching.