Photo Credit: Tony Quinn / ISI Photos
By: Kerin Maguire
Alyssa Kleiner joined the Spirit during the off-season as part of a trade with Portland Thorns FC. Although still considered a new member on an established team, the Santa Clara product’s impact is already being felt. After solidifying her spot as starting left back early in the season, she has played almost every minute with 798 minutes total and tallied one assist.
After an NCAA tournament run and West Coast Conference Championship with the Broncos in 2014, she played her first NWSL season in 2015 for Portland Thorns FC, starting four matches and seeing time in eight overall.
Kleiner’s arrival in Washington offered a new opportunity to seize a starting role, but she would have to get past a dynamic and speedy Caprice Dydasco first. But her preseason displays of her own speed and sound decision-making were enough ultimately enough to convince Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra, and she hasn’t looked back since.
Along with defenders Megan Oyster, Ali Krieger, and Shelina Zadorsky, Kleiner’s role has been crucial in helping the Spirit maintain a strong defensive record this season. With different players rotating into the backline as Krieger and Zadorsky will be with their respective national teams until after the Olympics, the left back’s skill and leadership will become even more vital.
“We have a deep bench,” she noted. “We’ve been working hard, and I think one player is as good as the next. Our team gels very well.”
The next few matches should also see Kelsey Wys getting the start in goal, bringing a different look to the Spirit’s defense and a new dynamic to get used to.
“In practice we switch goalkeepers,” said Kleiner when asked about playing with different keepers. “Our team chemistry is just amazing. We’re counting on that. I think Kelsey is a great goalkeeper so she will bring in that voice and communication to the team.”
It is this positive attitude and optimistic thinking that has pushed the young defender into her current leadership role on the backline. Despite her youth, at just 23 years old, and her new status with the team, her relationships with the other players on the team on and off the field and her understanding of the game highlight the fact that age is just a number. No matter the outcome, she maintains a positive attitude moving forward.
“It’s just giving any help that I can,” emphasized Kleiner. “That’s all you can really give. It’s always positive feedback.”
Alyssa Kleiner and the rest of the Spirit will be in action at the Plex this Saturday at 7 p.m. against Chicago Red Stars. This match will be the last home match until July 30th. For tickets, please click here.