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Boyds, Md., (1/8/20) – Richie Burke was officially named Washington Spirit Head Coach and Technical Director 365 days ago. Take a look back at some of the landmark moments of his first year at the helm.
Burke made his first splash in the NWSL at the 2019 NWSL Draft, making four first-round picks and one second-round pick. “We feel we’ve drafted five top players who can all contribute right away in this league, and we believe making an immediate commitment to them is important,” said Burke. “We’ve got five young stars of the future and I’m really looking forward to integrating them into our squad.
Burke was right to bet on his rookies, as the players drafted in 2019, Jordan DiBiasi (3), Sam Staab (4), Tegan McGrady (7), Dorian Bailey (8), and Bailey Feist (17), would go on to become one of the most impactful draft classes in NWSL history.
Burke went on to make an instant impact in the NWSL, 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.
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 23 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. Burke earned a nomination for NWSL Coach of the Year for his efforts.
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% successful pass rate. In 2018, the Spirit completed passes at just a 71% rate and made 60 fewer passes per game. Additionally, the Spirit’s average possession jumped from 49 percent in 2018 to 54 percent in 2019.
“I actually love my team, I love working with them and being at the training ground,” Burke said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington. “You show up on a daily basis with a smile on your face because you actually love what you do.”
Burke has continued to implement his philosophy of “winning as a habit,” stating that, “Many of the players that we brought in are serial winners.” Burke has brought in top talent from abroad such as Kumi Yokoyama, Brooke Hendrix, Jessie Scarpa, Jenna Hellstrom and Jaye Boissiere who have all enjoyed success at every level in which they have played.
With the 2020 draft on the horizon, Burke will look to continue to add more talent to bolster his current squad. “We want to bring in players who can come in and contribute immediately and play,” Burke said.
“We’re looking for players who play our style and our way and embody our culture and can come into our dressing room and football club and really help us become a better team.”