Washington Spirit – 2016 NWSL Season Review – What a Horrible Way to End the Season

2016 was going to be a Cinderella season for the Washington Spirit. They were minutes away from winning in perhaps the greatest women’s soccer league championship  game of all time.Then something horrible happened. It all came down to penalty kicks…

For a review of the championship, please see this:

 

The better team should always win a game. But, soccer is perhaps the cruelest sport of all.  After 2 overtime periods, it all comes down to penalty kicks. In my opinion, this is the worst way to determine a winner or loser. How about in football, we decide the Super Bowl champion with a series of field goals? Or in baseball, we crown the World Series winner after a home run derby?

So,  my solution after 120 minutes would be this. Perhaps have each team start a free kick around the 35 yard line, and try to work into the goal. If the play resulted in an offensive  throw in or corner kick, then continue. The play would stop after a goal, or the opposing team controls the ball (including a catch save), kicks the ball past midfield, or have a successful counter attack, or.something like that.

And the opposing team has an equal opportunity to do the same. Maybe not entire teams, but maybe  5 on 5 players plus goalies (and rotate the players)? Anything is better than penalty kicks. FIFA, Leagues, and Federations around the world discuss this! I am sure someone on this planet has a better idea than penalty kicks!

Now that I have safely gotten off of my soap box. Let us briefly review this past year for the Washington Spirit.

The NWSL Fantasy community was shocked, depressed, and terrified that there was something wrong with Crystal Dunn. She did not score a zillion goals like last year. However, there was nothing wrong with Dunn. She was contributing in other ways without padding her stat sheet. My suspicion is that all other team’s spent excessive energy trying to prevent her from scoring and that left other people open.

To test this hypothesis, I checked the NWSL statistics. The Washington Spirit have 8 players that have scored between 3 to 5 goals. That is balanced scoring!. The player list includes Estefania Banini, Crystal Dunn, Joanna Lohman, Diana Matheson, Christine Nairn, Francisca Ordega, Katie Stengel, and Cheyna Williams.

There is an upcoming article on the overall statistical performance of all teams.

Now the news:

Things could be worse for the Washington Spirit in 2017. On November 2 2016, they traded Ali Krieger to Orlando Pride for an allocation spot. Orlando definitely won this trade as Krieger is one of the better defenders out there and Washington essentially received nothing.

Soccer: 2016 CONCACAF Women

And Crystal Dunn is exploring the idea of playing in France next year. If she leaves, then Washington will be minus one of the world’s better strikers.

Probable speculation of why she wanted to go Orlando is that Krieger wanted to be with Ashlyn Harris . But another possible speculation on why these players (and maybe others?) want to leave the team is because of the disappointment in owner Bill Lynch’s handling  of the “Rapinoe situation”.

This is  when Seattle Reign player Megan Rapinoe wanted to kneel in protest during the national anthem on September 7.  The owner moved the timing of the anthem to be played while the teams were still in the locker room.

 

Rapinoe’s comments about this matter after the game:

“I didn’t hear it and I wasn’t exactly sure why it wasn’t played. It’s [expletive] unbelievable. Saddened by it. It’s pretty clear what the message is I am trying to bring to light in Chicago and what I continue to try to talk about the last few days. Clearly with [Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s] actions, it’s a necessary conversation.

It was incredibly distasteful, four days before one of the worst tragedies in our country, to say that I tried to hijack this event. … It’s just really disappointing and disrespectful. We want to talk about disrespect, and me disrespecting, he didn’t even give both teams a chance to even stand in front of it and show their respects. It’s unbelievable. It’s truly an unbelievable act to me.”

But here the Washington Spirit players respond to the controversy:

From a statement posted to the team’s website:

We are aware you have concerns over events surrounding our September 7 match against the Seattle Reign at the SoccerPlex that have shone a negative light on our organization and league.

We want to share that in the last 48 hours we have met as a team, with coaches, and with ownership. While our primary job is to play soccer, we do not take social issues lightly and we care deeply about the growth and success of the NWSL.

Our team is made up of diverse backgrounds and opinions. In fact, we believe this is a large part of why we have been so successful on the field this season. We come from many countries, ethnicities, and cultures. We proudly support and respect each other as individuals.

We want to briefly respond as a team to the events surrounding our match against the Seattle Reign this past Wednesday.

We respect our owner’s freedom to share his views and we understand his intentions. But as a team we don’t necessarily agree with those opinions or the actions taken on Wednesday evening.

We believe in freedom of speech and expression as long as it’s respectfully demonstrated, even when we don’t agree on every issue.

As a team, we were disappointed we were not informed of the plans for the national anthem or given an opportunity to weigh in on the decision.

We regret that a historic accomplishment for the club was overshadowed by decisions that had nothing to do with the match. The chance to fully celebrate this achievement with our supporters and staff was taken from us. There are so many positive stories that should have been highlighted. It saddens us that these were lost in the moment.

The “historic accomplishment” mentioned above was that the Washington Spirit had clinched one of the 2 top playoff spots and would be playing their first semi-final on their home field.

Whether you agree or disagree with Rapinoes’s actions, all I will say is that the Washington Spirit players acted like the “adults in the room”.

Videos:

The first game is really for “non-soccer fans”. A true soccer fan would appreciate the 1-0 game. But most people in general love lots of scoring. So, here is a 3-2 game for those people who enjoy high scoring games.

The classic semi-final victory for Washington.

Are you kidding me? The fate of the entire season going to penalty kicks?
Here are other season reviews: