Boyds, Md., (10/17/19) – Three Washington Spirit players and Spirit head coach Richie Burke have been named to the shortlist for 2019 NWSL League Awards. Aubrey Bledsoe has been nominated for Goalkeeper of the Year and Jordan DiBiasi and Sam Staab have been nominated for Rookie of the Year.
Coach of the Year Nominee: Richie Burke
In his first year as head coach of the Spirit, Burke led the team to a fifth-place finish with a record of 9-8-7 and 34 points, an increase of 24 points over last season’s 2-17-5, 11 point finish. After earning a combined 30 points in their previous two seasons, the Spirit finished the year just four points away from a playoff spot.
A large part of the team’s success can be credited to the quick adaptation of Burke’s possession-based style of play. The Spirit made 11,315 passes this season, averaged 471.5 passes per game and averaged a 79 percent successful pass rate. In 2018, the Spirit completed passes at a 71 percent rate and made 60 fewer passes per game. In addition, the team’s ball possession jumped from 49 percent in 2018 to 54 percent this season.
Burke adapted to the NWSL quickly, winning five of his first eight games in the league. Burke’s squad outscored their opponents 12-4 and recorded four clean sheets through that span.
Goalkeeper of the Year Nominee: Aubrey Bledsoe
Bledsoe turned in another fantastic year between the sticks for the Spirit, finishing tied for most saves in the league for the second consecutive year with 86. Bledsoe’s ability to stop shots was recognized by the league throughout the season as she was nominated for NWSL Save of the Week seven times throughout the season.
Bledsoe also shares the title for the least goals scored against among goalkeepers who played in at least 20 matches as she only allowed 25 goals. Additionally, Bledsoe finished with the second-most clean sheets in the NWSL with nine, behind only Utah keeper Nicole Barnhart.
In her two seasons in the net for the Spirit, Bledsoe has accumulated a league-leading 192 saves. Bledsoe also finished the season with the second-lowest goals-against average.
Rookie of the Year Nominees: Jordan DiBiasi, Sam Staab
The Spirit’s busy 2019 NWSL draft day paid dividends as the club collected two of the three NWSL Rookie of the Year nominees.
Midfielder DiBiasi was an early frontrunner for the nomination after she scored in back-to-back games for the Spirit in May against Sky Blue FC. During her rookie campaign DiBiasi played in 22 matches and started in 20 of those contests.
The talented midfielder finished the season with four goals, and she also contributed 48 corner kicks to the Spirit attack, including an Olimpico goal in week five which earned an NWSL Goal of the Week win.
Defender Staab became the second rookie in NWSL history to play every minute of every match. While playing a staggering 2,160 minutes, Staab recorded a goal and assist, and played an integral role in all nine of the Spirit’s clean sheets.
Staab was also a key part of a new-look Spirit backline that conceded 10 fewer goals compared to 2018. Staab and the Spirit defense allowed the second-least amount of goals in the league at just 25. The Spirit’s goal differential improved from -23 in 2018 to +5 in 2019.
The 2019 NWSL Awards will be voted upon in two rounds with fans having the opportunity to participate in the voting process. In the preliminary round of voting, owners, general managers, coaches, players and the media voted on the individual awards to determine the top finalists.
Fans are invited to join the final round of voting from October 17 to October 22 to determine the individual award winners, Best XI, and Second XI. The final round of voting uses a weighted scale, broken down by players (40%), owners/GMs/coaches (20%), media (20%) and fans (20%).
Fans will be able to cast their votes via NWSL social media pages.
Winners will be announced in the days leading up to and after the NWSL Championship game on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC.