2016 Rewind: Defenders

Washington Spirit  |   November 9, 2016
2016 Rewind: Defenders Featured Image

The Washington Spirit in 2016 was all about one word: team. There were 24 players who contributed to the most successful season in Spirit history. We’re taking a look back at each positional group and their success in 2016. Next will be the defenders:

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Alyssa Kleiner (Photo: Nicole Gamard/Washington Spirit)

Much like the Spirit itself, the Washington’s defensive line was defined by depth in 2016. After battling it out during preseason, Shelina Zadorsky, Megan Oyster, Ali Krieger, and Caprice Dydasco earned the starts for the first match of the season against Boston Breakers, combining with goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to earn the 1-0 shutout. After Alyssa Kleiner started at left back for the second match, the lineup remained consistent for the next eight matches leading into the Olympic departures.

With two of that steady back four away, head coach Jim Gabarra had the chance to experiment with the lineup, giving Kleiner, Dydasco, Estelle Johnson, and Whitney Church chances to show what they could do. It quickly became apparent that the defensive unit was strong no matter who was in the starting lineup. Over the course of the season, each of the four center backs started at least one game with each of the other three, the only exceptions being Church and Oyster (though those two did play together in a 3-back in the Championship along with Zadorsky).

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Whitney Church (Photo: Wilf Thorne/ISI Photos)

The Spirit(ed) defense kept opposing teams to 21 goals in the regular season, tied for third fewest in the NWSL. The 1.05 goals against per regular season game is a club record.

Although the defenders’ primary role is keeping the ball out of our net, the group also provided some key offensive moments. Krieger scored the opening goal in the 2-1 win on the road against Sky Blue FC on April 24. Kleiner scored her first professional goal, also against Sky Blue FC, at home on July 31 in stoppage time to solidify the 3-1 win for the Spirit. During the NWSL semifinal, Zadorsky added a world-class assist when she sent a beautiful ball into the box for Krieger to head home for an early Spirit lead in that history winning effort.


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