Monday, March 20th was the deadline for teams to submit final rosters ahead of opening weekend. According to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are allowed a minimum of 22 senior squad players and maximum of 26. The Spirit have utilized every available slot by naming a full 26 player squad, and here they are:
Goalkeepers: Nicole Barnhart, Lyza Bosselmann, Aubrey Kingsbury
The headliner here is of course Kingsbury (formerly Bledsoe) who’s still one of the best in the league. There’s a chance she’ll end up going to the World Cup, but Kansas City keeper AD Franch has been in the third spot behind Alyssa Naeher and Casey Murphy in Vlatko Andonovski’s most recent callups. If Kingsbury is selected, the Spirit will have two ends of the spectrum to choose from, the experienced Nicole Barnhart or rookie talent Lyza Bosselmann.
Defenders: Dorian Bailey, Camryn Biegalski, Amber Brooks, Gabrielle Carle (INTL), Maddie Elwell, Anna Heilferty (SEI), Tara McKeown, Sam Staab
Through positional tweaks and/or conversions, a once bare unit has grown to include eight players. Dorian Bailey and Maddie Elwell dropping into fullback positions, plus Tara McKeown converting to center back, has bolstered the numbers in defense. Bailey and Elwell are natural fits for fullback roles, with the former capable of filling the void left by Kelley O’Hara.
It remains to be seen if the Spirit’s gamble in central defense will pay off. Sam Staab is a superstar who could start seeing national team callups, and Amber Brooks is an experienced defender. If McKeown develops rapidly into her new position, the Spirit will have three capable center backs with varied yet complementary skillsets. The concern is that McKeown isn’t there yet, so a lot is riding on Staab and Brooks, though new signings Inès Jaurena and Gabby Carle have also spent time at center back for other clubs.
Midfielders: Jordan Baggett, Nicole Douglas (INTL), Bayley Feist, Tori Huster (SEI), Inès Jaurena (INTL), Paige Metayer, Chloe Ricketts (U18), Ashley Sanchez, Marissa Sheva, Andi Sullivan, Riley Tanner
This group is the deepest among the team, and somewhat surprisingly so. The signing of Jaurena added to the group, we well as plenty of rookie talents. Undrafted midfielder Paige Metayer made the squad, while attacking players in college, Nicole Douglas and Riley Tanner, have been identified as midfielders throughout preseason camps. Additionally, the signing of 15-year-old Chloe Ricketts provides a new face among the unit which still includes familiar names, Andi Sullivan, Bayley Feist, Ashley Sanchez, Jordan Baggett and Tori Huster (still listed as SEI, but working toward full fitness).
Forwards: Ashley Hatch, Civana Kuhlmann, Lena Silano, Trinity Rodman
Given that, at the time, four of the Spirit’s six draft picks were attacking players, it’s a bit shocking to see the Spiirt with just four recognized attackers in the squad. Two are familiar faces in Ashley Hatch and Trinity Rodman, while the other two are the lone rookies to remain in the attacking unit, Civana Kuhlmann and Lena Silano.
Kuhlmann and Silano are intriguing prospects but it’s a lot to ask one or both to serve as a primary attacker for the majority of the season. Kuhlmann had a remarkable trajectory as a young player before injuries got in the way. However, if the Spirit can get Kuhlmann back fit and to her best, she’s talented enough to be one of the surprises of the season.
Key: INTL (international), U18 (under-18), SEI (season-ending injury)
The finalized roster means that non-roster invitees Jordan Thompson and Mariana Speckmaier didn’t make the squad, and U18 player Melina Rebimbas is likely on her way to college. Spirit draft pick Delaney Graham is also not yet in the squad, as she has yet to report to camp as she rehabs from a January knee surgery.
Trying to glean specific information apart from which players are eligible to play for the Spirit on opening day is probably a bit of a fool’s errand, but it’s hard not to look at the bevy of midfielders and light forward line and think the Spirit could shift away from 433 and 4231 formations which have been standard. Across women’s football, teams are finding success pressing out of a 442, and could be an option for the Spirit under Parsons.
Anyway, lets all find out together March 26 at Audi Field!