By Owen Krucoff
Boyds, Md., (6/19/19) – Meggie Dougherty Howard is not your ordinary third-year professional athlete. In their third season, most players are established but not experienced, having survived their first two seasons but still working to become a top impact player or a leader on their team. Dougherty Howard is already excelling in both of those categories.
Dougherty Howard was drafted by the Spirit out of the University of Florida in 2017, but already had experience with the club, having played for the Spirit Reserves in the summers of 2015 and 2016. This makes 2019 the midfielder’s fifth consecutive season with the club, more than most players can boast. Throw in the relative youth of this year’s Spirit team, and Dougherty Howard is actually one of the squad’s most senior leaders.
“It’s definitely kind of strange to be considered one of the vets at age 23,” Dougherty Howard said. “I feel like I’ve been around the organization for a while, and it’s been really great to see its growth, especially this year.”
Dougherty Howard’s consistency in midfield has been a big part of the team growth she speaks of. She has appeared in all eight games this season, starting in seven, and leads the NWSL with a pass accuracy rate of 88.3%. Her heavy involvement in Washington’s possessions has made it easier for the team’s younger players to develop and make an impact.
“Our rookies have done an outstanding job, coming in and stepping into big roles and playing at such a high level,” Dougherty Howard said. “I think our age doesn’t show on the field.”
The Spirit are indeed playing beyond their years, sitting in first place in the NWSL with 17 points at the one-third mark of the season. But Dougherty Howard says that it is off the field where the squad’s youth is a bit more apparent.
“We have a young team, so I think a lot of us are eager to do things off the field as well, whether it’s getting together to go to the movies, trying to go to concerts, or just grabbing a bite to eat and hang out,” Dougherty Howard said. “Regardless of what it is, I think we do really genuinely enjoy spending time with each other, and that’s obviously going to translate to chemistry on the field.”
One of Dougherty Howard’s hobbies outside of soccer is grilling. A favorite recipe of hers, grilled balsamic chicken and veggie kabobs, was featured on ESPNW as part of a series last year on what athletes eat. Curry and vegetables are among her most recent favorites.
“I just love grilling anything because I feel like it really enhances the flavor,” Dougherty Howard said. “You can grill fruit, which is pretty good, too.”
Having lived in the D.C. area for parts of five years, Dougherty Howard has come to appreciate some of the region’s unique traits and perks.
“You get so many different types of people from all over the world in D.C., and I just love the diversity that is in the city and experiencing different types of people,” she said. “There’s so much to do, whether it’s other sporting events, food events, concerts. It’s just a fun city where you’re never bored.”
As a lover of the outdoors, Dougherty Howard also enjoys the chance to take a break from the urban environment and experience the DMV’s more natural spots.
“I just think it’s a good mix of the city life, but then also you’re able to find really quiet areas and go for hikes along trails,” Dougherty Howard said. “I like being outdoors, and you’ve got a good mix of both, which is fun.”
Dougherty Howard had some success in her years with the Spirit Reserves, winning the USL W-League title in 2015 and the WPSL East Conference title in 2016. Now, with the first team playing as well as it has in years, she sees the chance to add to those accomplishments.
“We have a good vision of how we want to play and the brand of football we want to put on the field,” she said. “Everyone is just buying into that and it’s great to see that people are playing for each other on the field, and I think that translates to good performances.”