Just as the team was starting to show some defensive cracks, Washington Spirit have announced the signing of French defender Annaïg Butel to a contract through 2024.
Butel has played for Division 1 Féminine club Paris FC for 15 seasons and has made 10 appearances for the French National Team but will not be joining them for the 2023 World Cup. She has played as both a defender and midfielder for club, though she has only appeared in a center back role in the past two seasons.
Spirit head coach Mark Parsons said in the team’s press release: “[Butel] has special attacking and defensive qualities. With this addition, we can continue to develop our style of play.”
Butel’s 2022-23 stats clearly show her defensive abilities, with high numbers of both tackles and interceptions. She’s also skilled at moving the ball and had the highest pass completion percentage on her team this season. Though playing primarily as a defender, she’s scored at least one goal in each of her past four seasons.
The Spirit appeared to have one of the best defensive lines in the NWSL early this season but have allowed seven goals in their two most recent games. Additional depth, especially from a veteran player like 31-year-old Butel, will help them fill in gaps and could allow the team to shift some defenders to strengthen the midfield while World Cup players are away.
Butel will occupy Washington’s final international roster slot, joining English Nicole Douglas, Canandian Gabrielle Carle, and fellow French players Inés Jaurena and Ouleymata Sarr. Sarr is also joining the Spirit from Paris FC this transfer window, which could ease the transition for both players.
“I am really happy and proud to join the club and its project,” Butel said. “I have only played in one city in Europe, and I can’t wait to meet our fans and for Washington to become my second home away from home.”
We also can’t wait to meet Annaïg and see her playing in black-and-white soon!