The Washington Spirit will open the 2018 National Women’s Soccer League regular season on Saturday night with a road game against Seattle Reign FC. Kickoff from UW Medicine Pitch at Memorial Stadium is set for 10 p.m. ET with a live stream available on go90.
Saturday’s season-opener will be the first of three meetings between Washington and Seattle this season, two of which will be played in the Pacific Northwest. The Spirit and Reign both enter the 2018 campaign with several new weapons on their roster.
“Seattle is always a really difficult place to play,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “There’s a couple teams that have made a lot of changes [in the offseason]. We’re one of them and I think Seattle has as well. We’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
Washington is set to debut a new-look roster, which includes the additions of four U.S. Women’s National Team players and several other key offseason acquisitions.
In a trade with the North Carolina Courage announced on January 16, Washington acquired U.S. Women’s National Team defender Taylor Smith and U.S. international forward Ashley Hatch, who was named the 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year after scoring seven goals in her debut season.
Just days later, the Spirit selected U.S. international midfielder Andi Sullivan with the top overall pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft, and Canadian international defender/midfielder Rebecca Quinn with the third overall pick.
On January 30, Washington selected U.S. international midfielder Rose Lavelle with the No. 1 pick in the NWSL Dispersal Draft. It was the fifth acquisition of a U.S. or Canadian international player under the age of 25 by the Spirit in a two-week span.
With Quinn, five total U.S. internationals including forward Mallory Pugh - who led the Spirit with six goals as a rookie in 2017 - as well as returning midfielders Yanara Aedo (Chile) and Estefania Banini (Argentina), and forward Francisca Ordega (Nigeria), the Spirit roster feature nine total players who are members of their respective national teams.
Just a few of the team’s additional key returning players include: defender Estelle Johnson, who was named to the NWSL Team of the Month twice in 2017; midfielder Havana Solaun, who scored five goals and led the team with four assists in her first season with the club; and midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard, who led the team in passing as a rookie.