The MVP of the Washington Spirit’s open practice was clearly the weather. That’s not a knock on any player or coach. The weather was that nice. After weeks of oppressive heat and humidity, we were suddenly enjoying the outdoors. Mother Nature was no longer assaulting us as soon as we walked out the door.
I think people were so stunned by the breathable air and lack of dripping sweat that they forgot what they were watching. On the hillside overlooking Field 12, it was more of a social hour than a viewing audience for an open practice.
And yet, the Spirit players seemed a bit nervous at first. Their touches and passes were not sharp. When they broke out of warmups into a small-sided modified scrimmage, sloppiness abounded. Between that and the fact that Ashlyn Harris was in the trainers’ hands rather than the nets, I’m surprised Twitter didn’t explode in panic in between news updates on the D.C. United stadium and the Gold Cup.
But I can pass along two bits of encouraging news for Spirit fans:
1. The level of play bounced upwards. Toward the end, we were treated to some outstanding moments. The best: Conny Pohlers slipping the ball backwards with the sole of her foot to Julia Roberts, who blasted the ball past Lloyd Yaxley in goal.
2. I don’t have details, but Harris should be fine. Of course, Chantel Jones looked sharp as well.
One new face was in practice: Jordan Angeli, the versatile Santa Clara and Boston Breakers alum picked in the third round of the supplemental draft. Dan Lauletta caught up with Angeli in February to see how she was progressing after knee surgery. Now we’re seeing if she is ready to be added to the roster before the freeze deadline July 31. One practice isn’t enough to tell — she had a few wayward touches, but so did a lot of people, and she was fully involved in each phase of training.
Ali Krieger was not. All she can do is wait and see.
For coaches, this practice was a dream. In a question-and-answer session with about 25 inquisitive folks, Mark Parsons and Lloyd Yaxley patiently went through their practice planning in detail that the casual fan would find excruciating. Those who have clearly gone through some USSF licensing courses, though, were enthralled.
Meanwhile, scores of kids lined the barrier after practice to autographs and pictures. Angeli and Ochs’ similar ponytails may have confused some kids who asked for Angeli’s autograph not realizing they had already received it. Krieger, though she didn’t participate in practice, was one of the last players off the field.
So the practice offered something for everyone. Friendly interaction with the players. A chance to cheer for actual Spirit goals. (Kika Toulouse had a nice one as well.) Some chalk talk and philosophical discussion with the coaches. More bonding for the Spirit’s tight-knit loyalists.
Now can we get the same weather for Saturday’s game?