Who's Next for the Washington Spirit?
The Washington Spirit are in another tricky situation heading into the 2023 off-season, with the release of head coach Mark Parsons after missing out on the playoffs due to a Decision Day loss to the North Carolina Courage. They will be looking for a new head coach who can help them return to the level they were at during their 2021 Championship season as well as players to pick up in free agency to bolster the young squad.
Carmelina Moscato (Tigres)
While Carmelina Moscato doesn’t have a long coaching career, she does have winning momentum in her favor. She started coaching in 2016, quickly rising through the ranks in the Canadian youth system before becoming the Head Coach of Tigres in 2022. She became the first woman and non-Mexican coach to win the Apertura tournament in the history of Liga MX.
Moscato is known for being a player-oriented coach. Given that the Spirit don’t have a great track record with coaches, having someone concerned with player welfare is a must for the organization. Furthermore, Moscato is willing to do what it takes to win. She’s great at unifying teams and getting each player to see the same vision. This seems directly in line with how owner Michele Kang operates: getting each member of the staff on board with her vision. If Moscato gets buy-in from the club and from the players, the sky’s the limit for what she can accomplish.
Hope Powell (Birmingham City)
Hope Powell is a name English football fans will likely be familiar with. Before her current position as the Technical Director of Birmingham City, she was the manager of Women’s Super League team Brighton & Hove Albion from 2017 to 2022. Powell is a tactically savvy coach who, with the right resources, could really shine.
Powell’s bread and butter is scouting and developing young talent. She’s excellent at finding “hidden gem” players such as Maya Le Tissier and giving them space to grow within the club environment. The Spirit have so many hidden gems already, such as Dorian Bailey and Bayley Feist, that Powell’s expertise in developing these players to their full potential feels like a no-brainer for the team. Not to mention, her ability to spot young talent would hopefully translate to the College Draft, allowing her to make amends for the team’s lackluster picks last year.
Pedro Martínez Losa (Scotland)
While Losa may seem like an unorthodox choice, his background could make him an ideal candidate for the Spirit. He coached Arsenal from 2014-2017, winning the 2015 FA WSL Cup and the 2016 FA Women’s Cup in the process. More importantly, he laid the groundwork for the current Arsenal team, signing Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema, and Katie McCabe, among many others. He also brought in Leah Williamson and Lauren James as youth players.
As his time with Arsenal shows, Losa is excellent at both developing young talent and scouting. This is exactly what the Spirit needs. Washington has earned the reputation of being a young team, and their new head coach has to understand how to work with young players. The new coach must also be able to scout more effectively than their predecessors; without some key signings, the Spirit could very well see themselves at the bottom again. Losa brings proven experience working with younger players, scouting, and winning. What more could a Spirit coach need?
Possible Free Agent Targets:
Tegan McGrady, Portland Thorns
Should two-time NWSL Champion Tegan McGrady have any interest in coming back to her former team (she can hardly be blamed if she doesn’t), she would be an immediate starter. Wing back is a position Washington has struggled to fill. Former head coach Mark Parsons moved midfielder Dorian Bailey back to replace Kelley O’Hara, but Bailey’s presence was sorely missed in the midfield. Having such an accomplished defender as McGrady back at the Spirit allows Bailey to return to her natural position and shores up the defense tremendously.
Considering McGrady has not registered many minutes for the Thorns, Washington could make an offer McGrady can’t refuse: being an immediate starter alongside players she already knows.
Natalia Kuikka, Portland Thorns
After a stellar 2022 season, Natalia Kuikka had a relatively quiet, if not consistent, 2023. In fact, the midfielder is one of the most consistent in the league. Stability in the midfield is something Washington lacked this season. Kuikka can also score goals, especially in the box, a true bonus for a team that drastically underperformed in expected goals.
It’s also worth mentioning that Spirit president Mark Krikorian coached Kuikka at Florida State University. Krikorian recruited many players from his former squads for the Spirit, such as Gabby Carle and Inès Jaurena. It’s possible that Washington could leverage that connection and give their midfield a massive boost by signing Kuikka.
Mary Fowler, Manchester City
After having a fantastic World Cup with the Matildas, Mary Fowler just keeps getting better. The young forward is starting to find her stride at Manchester City, having notched two assists in their 5-0 victory over Bristol City on October 15. Her position as a winger this season utilizes her high soccer IQ and playmaking abilities.
Why, then, could she be a great target for the Spirit? It’s a simple answer: Man City barely played Fowler at all last season and only started giving her consistent minutes after the Matilda’s breathtaking run in the World Cup. The Spirit are certain to lose at least one forward in the expansion draft, not to mention lacking a consistent winger during the 2023 regular season. Why not bring in one of the world’s best young forwards to compliment the young attacking core Washington already has? Fowler could go from a young phenomenon to simply phenomenal if she decides to wear the Spirit crest.