Washington Spirit Reserves players during their second training session of 2013 – DC United Women fans should recognize at least three familiar faces
So what do Lori Lindsey, Ali Krieger, and Tiffany McCarty have in common? Okay, they all play for the Washington Spirit, but what else? The answer: they all played for the W-League Washington Freedom before they became professionals, and in the cases of Lori and Ali, well before they became part of the national team.
I mention that to encourage you to check out the Spirit’s W-League team this year, the Washington Spirit Reserves. Players signed for this season that you may hear more of down the road include U-17 WNT player Andi Sullivan and two-time ESPN Rise Best Player in Maryland Ashley Spivey. And there are a number of familiar faces from last year’s DC United Women, including ones like Hayley Siegel and Diana Weigel who were in training camp with the professional team but didn’t quite make the final cut.
“Those will be true reserves,” general manager (and 2011 W-League Executive of the Year) Tim Schweitzer said of those players. “When the NWSL Spirit faces their callups, we’ll expect several of our reserves to be called up for professional duty. And that’s really the primary function of keeping a W-League team along with an NWSL team.”
Head coach Mark Parsons was very happy to have that nucleus to build on as well. “Yes, that’s helping, that’s very very important. One, because they’re quality players and, two, because of their character and what they’ve been through with the organization. It’s key to have that because they’ve been through some important games, and this means a lot to them. And it’s important to have players that this means everything to.”
Head coach Mark Parsons talks with the players while assistant Danielle Malagari looks on
Here’s the roster so far, but keep in mind that this is going to get greatly expanded as players finish college and become available:
Alex Doll – Stanford
Didi Haracic – Loyola/DC United Women
Ashley Herndon – entering JMU/DC United Women
Andi Sullivan – entering Stanford/DC United Women
Hayley Siegel – Santa Clara/DC United Women
Diana Weigel – William & Mary/DC United Women
Tiff Brown – Colorado/DC United Women
Amber Stobbs – Hofstra/Chelsea Ladies
Monica Mendes – Portugal National Team/DC United Women Super20s
Ashley Spivey – Maryland
Shannon Collins – Maryland
Jennifer Skogerboe – UConn/DC United Women
Katie Yensen – Virginia Tech
Regrettably, neither Molly Menchel – voted MVP of last year’s DC United Women – nor any other current UVA player will be on the list as according to Schweitzer the soccer team has its own plans for the summer that include a trip to Europe. That’s rather more than the Spirit can offer. But there are still plenty of great players on the list, with more to come.
The most exotic player has to be Amber Stobbs, like Parsons a British import. She’s currently finishing her junior year at Hofstra and was looking for a team for the summer. “”I wanted to stay for the summer in America instead of going back to England. And I have some friends in northern Virginia, in DC, and I thought it was a great area, so I figured I’d see what clubs were in the area, and Mark happened to be here. I played for Mark some years at Chelsea, so it was a good contact.”
This was Stobbs very first practice with the team (and I believe only the second practice overall), but she liked what she saw. “Good. I think it looks solid. It’s still early days. You can tell each individual’s good, so once we gel as a team, we’re going to be a really good team.”
And all you have to do to see the team is to show up a couple of hours early at the Soccerplex, at least on the three dates that they have doubleheaders with the professional team:
Saturday, May 11 (this Saturday, which is also their opening match):
– 4 pm, New York Magic at Spirit Reserves
– 7 pm, Boston Breakers at Washington Spirit
Saturday, June 15 (and the national teamers will be away):
– 4 pm, New Jersey Wildcats at Spirit Reserves
– 7 pm, Western New York Flash at Washington Spirit
Wednesday, July 10:
– 4:30 pm, Fredericksburg Impact at Spirit Reserves
– 7:30 pm, Chicago Red Stars at Washington Spirit
(And for those of you stuck in the wilds of northern Virginia, no fear, they play two matches in your area – see their schedule for details.)
The W-League has been re-organized once again: two years ago the DCU Women competed mostly with New Jersey teams. Last year those teams were in a more northern division while the Black-and-Red faced teams based in either Virginia or Dayton, Ohio. This year instead of competing in a five-team division they compete in the seven-team Northeastern Conference, facing teams ranging from the New York Magic up north to the Virginia Beach Piranhas down south. And of course each of those teams has players worth watching.
Assistant coach and Spirit color commentator Danielle Malagari encourages fans not to ignore the W-League team. “Mark Parsons is going to do a fantastic job with the W-League. He did a great job with the U-20s last year. He’s on his way up, and I think he’s going to put out some quality players and put on a good show for people. Don’t count the W-League out. I know the pro team is fantastic, but come out and support women’s soccer at the lower levels as well.”
I tried to pin Parsons down on particular fans should come out and watch, but he wouldn’t give. “Everyone. Our strongest player will be the way we all play. We’ll be a team no matter who’s on. We talked a little bit about that with the girls, that the team is the most important thing, and that we can’t play through just one or two players because other teams can cancel out one or two players. We want to be as strong as possible everywhere.”
That being said, here are some of the players I’m excited about:
Hayley Siegel – A composed midfielder who helped anchor the core of the DC United Women the past two seasons.
Ashley Herndon – Was the third-leading scorer on last year’s DCU despite playing in only eight matches and still being in high school. Exceptionally mature player.
Diana Weigel – A fast, versatile player who played a utility role for the Black-and-Red last year, filling in wherever she was needed. With some of last year’s players skimmed off to play professionally, she should have more of a chance to shine.
Andi Sullivan – Even younger than Herndon, we got only glimpses of Sullivan with the DC due to her obligations with other teams, but those were impressive, including a scoring shot from 20 yards out in the match that clinched the conference for United.
Of course, the most exciting players of all are the surprises. Last year Mikaela Howell seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the team in scoring and to make the W-League Team of the Week five weeks in a row. Will Amber Stobbs – or someone not even on the roster yet – be this year’s Mikaela Howell?
But let’s leave the last words of encouragement to head coach Parsons. “We are jam-packed with quality now, and more’s coming. There’s a couple of players that if they weren’t in college they’d be playing on the pro team, so have a look and see who they are. And come and watch the type of football that we’re going to play. We’re going to be so passionate about moving the ball and playing attractive soccer, it’s definitely going to be worth coming out a bit early to catch.”
Hope to see you at the Soccerplex – early!