The Washington Spirit will host the Boston Breakers on Saturday, April 16th at the Maryland SoccerPlex at 7pm. The match not only begins the season for the Spirit, but it’s the first match of the historic 2016 National Women’s Soccer League season. The game makes history as the NWSL enters its fourth season, surpassing both of its predecessors, WUSA and WPS, which both existed for only three seasons. All eight founding teams, as well as two additional expansion teams, will face off for an exciting and groundbreaking year of soccer.
The Spirit had a successful preseason, earning wins over both the University of Virginia and Penn State. The Spirit beat perennial powerhouse UVA 3-0, with two goals by Argentinian international forward Estefania Banini and one by newcomer Katie Stengel. In its next match, the Spirit defeated 2015 College Cup Champions Penn State 2-0. 2015 NWSL golden boot winner Crystal Dunn and Penn State alum and free kick specialist Christine Nairn each scored a goal. The Spirit also played a competitive intrasqaud scrimmage which went to a penalty shoot out, allowing players the opportunity to show their skills to new general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra.
After making the playoffs and finishing fourth in the two previous seasons, the Spirit will look to build into the championship game in 2016 with Gabarra at the helm. The first step will be this match against the Boston Breakers, who after finishing 9th last season, come to 2016 with a new head coach, Matt Beard, and a rebuilt team. Last year, the Spirit tied Boston at home before losing to them on the road.
“We are all excited to get our 2016 season started,” said Gabarra. “Boston looks to be an improved side, and this should be a high quality and entertaining match.”
The Spirit enters the season with a very promising roster that includes five Federation Players, two international players, three four-year Spirit veterans, and several exciting newcomers. The list of Federation Players includes three Canadians and two Americans. Diana Matheson from Canada as well as Ali Krieger and Crystal Dunn from the United States will return to the Spirit this season, while Stephanie Labbé and Shelina Zadorsky from Canada will make their first appearances for the club. Matheson and Krieger, along with Tori Huster, have played for the Spirit since its inaugural season in 2013. Huster has been a consistent force as a midfielder and defender and is currently the Sprit player who has made the most appearances for the team.
The season’s roster also consists of Argentinian Banini and Nigerian Francisca Ordega. In the 2016 NWSL College Draft, the Spirit picked up athletic forwards Cheyna Williams from Florida State and Cali Farquharson from Arizona State. Forward Stengel is another new addition to the club, coming to the Spirit from FC Bayern Munich, where she helped the team to the 2014-2015 Frauen-Bundesliga title with a team-leading nine goals.
The Boston Breakers have a split of ten returning players and ten new additions to the team’s 2016 roster. The selection of returning players includes: Australian striker Kyah Simon, 2015 leading scorer Kristie Mewis, 2015 Breakers Rookie of the Year Stephanie McCaffrey, defender Julie King, and midfielder Katie Schoepfer. U.S. Women’s National Team defender Whitney Engen is a new face on the Breakers’s roster, acquired in a trade with the Chicago Red Stars. Other additions include Swedish midfielder Louise Schillgard, British keeper Libby Stout, and college draft picks Christen Westphal, Brittany Ratcliffe, and Abby Smith. Boston also acquired former Spirit midfielder Angela Salem in an offseason trade.
Kick off on Saturday is at 7 PM. Weather for the historic first kick of the 4th National Women’s Soccer League season is predicted to be sunny and in the 60’s. Be part of the NWSL soccer experience by calling 301-337-8579 or visiting our website.