As autumn nears, the Spirit will lastly play at dwelling, however solely twice and with no spectators and a roster lacking these marquee gamers.
The coronavirus pandemic worn out the National Women’s Soccer League common season. A month-long summer season event in Salt Lake City’s suburbs helped fill the void. Now, confronted with an prolonged offseason, the league has organized for the 9 golf equipment, divided into three-team pods, to play 4 matches apiece — two dwelling, two away.
The seven-week schedule will open Saturday afternoon with the Spirit internet hosting Sky Blue FC at Segra Field in Leesburg, one of many venues on its unique dwelling calendar. Washington had additionally deliberate to play this yr at Audi Field within the District and Maryland SoccerPlex, its main dwelling the earlier seven seasons.
Next yr, the Spirit is slated to play seven instances at 20,000-capacity Audi Field and 5 at 5,000-seat Segra Field.
Virginia’s reopening tips permit as much as 1,000 followers at Segra Field this month, however for well being and security causes, the Spirit is not going to invite spectators. Washington can even host the Chicago Red Stars subsequent Saturday in Leesburg, then go to Chicago on Sept. 26 and New Jersey-based Sky Blue on Oct. 3.
Without any playoffs, these 18 league video games are basically friendlies to ensure that groups to stay energetic a tiny longer. The 2021 season shouldn’t be slated to start till April.
“This has been a year from hell; 2020 has not been anyone’s favorite year,” Spirit Coach Richie Burke mentioned in a convention name with reporters this week. “We’re trying to win games, but for managers like me, [the fall matches are] to do an assessment, an overview, a complete rundown and evaluate where our players are this year.”
At the Challenge Cup in Utah, every staff performed 4 first-round matches, then proceeded to the quarterfinals. (Orlando withdrew before traveling due to a coronavirus disaster.) The Spirit was eradicated by Sky Blue in a penalty-kick tiebreaker.
Washington resumed exercises three weeks in the past with out Lavelle, probably the most distinguished of a number of NWSL gamers to go abroad, by way of everlasting switch or short-term mortgage.
She signed with Manchester City, as did U.S. teammate Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage). Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns) and Christen Press (Utah Royals) are reportedly joining Manchester United. In want of a aggressive season this fall, others across the league opted for loans to locations akin to Sweden and Germany.
Expecting Lavelle to stay abroad for greater than a yr, the Spirit traded her NWSL rights to OL Reign (Tacoma, Wash.) just a few days earlier than the Manchester City announcement. Washington acquired $100,000 in monetary issues and a 2022 first-round draft decide.
“I have never felt so low since my dad passed away, when Rose left,” Burke mentioned. “Rose Lavelle is a football junkie. She just wants to play. She’d play on the side of a hill. She’d play on a field full of rocks.”
While some NWSL groups had been hit exhausting by departures, no different Spirit gamers went abroad. However, Sullivan, a U.S. nationwide staff prospect from Lorton, Va., is three to 4 weeks from coming back from a knee harm suffered on the Utah event. Defender Tori Huster can be injured.
The different pods will start play subsequent weekend. The Houston Dash, which received the summer season event, is grouped with North Carolina and Orlando. Portland, Utah and OL Reign kind the opposite pod.
Because of scheduling conflicts, Sky Blue will play dwelling matches at Montclair State as an alternative of Red Bull Arena. Orlando needed to transfer one dwelling date from its downtown stadium to a suburban venue.
As a part of its contract with the league, CBS will carry Saturday’s match, in addition to 4 others on the nationwide broadcast channel and two on CBS Sports Network.