The crowd at Maryland SoccerPlex was going berserk for U.S. national team superstars Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe. But after the Washington Spirit’s 1-0 victory over Seattle Reign FC last weekend, there also was plenty of clamoring for Spirit defender Marisa Abegg, who wasn’t even on a NWSL roster two weeks earlier.
Heading into the final game of the season, Abegg has three straight starts under her belt. She has been instrumental in back-to-back 1-0 victories that have given the Spirit their first winning streak of the year, quickly earning the respect from fans and players who aren’t familiar with her contributions to the D.C. United Women.
Abegg, 26, wasn’t unfamiliar to the Spirit staff, having been a fixture in 2011 and 2012. Originally drafted by FC Gold Pride of WPS in 2009, Abegg moved to the Freedom in 2010. Following last season with the D.C. United Women, she had other plans for 2013 – she played nine games this summer for the WPSL Gulf Coast Texans – until she was called back to Washington late last month.
“When I first took over, she was one of the first players I wanted to think about,” Spirit head coach Mark Parsons said. “I knew her situation wasn’t quite right. As soon as her situation was correct, we got on the phone and made that happen.”
It was never a question of ability. Abegg is a former member of the U.S. under-23 and under-20 national teams, and she was a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist during a standout career at Stanford, where she racked up 91 career appearances, starting every game the Cardinal played while she was in Palo Alto.
Signed at the roster deadline on July 31, Abegg returned to Washington to find a back line with regulars Toni Pressley, Robyn Gayle, Ali Krieger and Candace Chapman all battling various injuries. The unit has gotten healthier of late with Krieger and Gayle returning the starting lineup, but the Spirit have welcomed Abegg’s athleticism, leadership and dedication to a team that has struggled for most of the year.
Learning who her teammates were was all part of the process.
“It’s hard to say exactly what I needed to learn, other than Mark telling me at the very beginning, ‘You just need to play like you have been playing and did last season for the D.C. United Women. Communicate, step in, and just be yourself,’” Abegg said. “That was the big thing, coming in and just playing, enjoying every second I have out there because that’s all I can do. It helps to have people around that believe in me, and the team welcomed me with open arms from the first minute I stepped on the field.”
Her performances in consecutive shutouts could be enough to earn a regular place on the roster when the 2014 NWSL season gets underway.
“Abegg has been incredible from the start,” Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris said. “She stepped in with a positive attitude, great energy and never skipped a beat. I never questioned her heart and her tenacity every game. She is throwing her body left and right for this team, and to do that – she didn’t know who she was fighting for, but it didn’t matter.”