Boyds, Md. (10/09/20) – The Washington Spirit’s time at the 2020 NWSL Fall Series came to an end last Saturday as they played, and won, their fourth and final match against Sky Blue FC 1-0, courtesy of forward Kumi Yokoyama’s first NWSL goal in the 50th minute.
The Spirit wrapped the Fall Series with a record of two wins, one draw, and one loss. Throughout each match, you could see the team growing together and building off from one performance to the next. In the words of defender Sam Staab, “We finally got back to how we usually play and how we want to play.”
That isn’t always easy. The Spirit have played the fall series with no less than four names on the injury report each week. Missing key players such as Jordan DiBiasi, Tegan McGrady, Tori Huster and Andi Sullivan isn’t easy. However, even while relying on a core of young rookies, the Spirit showed well during the Fall Series, leading the Northeast Pod. Even in a new style of competition such as the Fall Series, the goal remained the same: win and become a championship team, as Spirit Head Coach Richie Burke often says.
The 2020 Fall Series was unorthodox, but it offered many players on this Spirit roster the opportunity to bloom.
“There have been some players who I believe are making giant strides,” said Burke.
“I’ve been thrilled with Dorian Bailey and Bayley Feist. Dorian, she can play in multiple roles and I have been loving the development of Ashley Sanchez, moving her off the flank and moving her inside a little bit.”
Burke was also full of praise for Spirit newcomer Kumi Yokoyama, who joined the team last December: “She’s just a big favorite amongst the team. I mean, it’s hard not to love her. She’s come into this different culture, got a different language, she’s had to adjust to a very athletic game, and she’s finding ways to make it work… I’m thrilled for Kumi. She’s great.”
Even the most veteran players on the Spirit roster have been pushed to adapt to the unique set of circumstances posed by the Fall Series. Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe is one of them, even though she has always been a leader within the Spirit ranks, she’s had to take on the role of captain in absence of both Sullivan and Huster.
“[Bledsoe] will say ‘that’s not good enough, we need to do a better job,’ because at the end of the day that kid hates getting goals past her and when it happens the knives are out. She is the same as Tori Huster.”
The Fall Series gave everyone something they needed. For the fans, a chance to see their favorite players play on networks like CBS. To Burke, the opportunity to evaluate players and experient tactically. To the players, the chance to display their skills and contribute in new ways.