A couple of weeks ago, the D.C. metro area was buried in snow. The forecasters say it may happen again Sunday night.
So everyone was happy to be outside on a lovely spring day at the Soccerplex, where the Spirit had a festive intrasquad scrimmage and autograph sessions. (Yes, plural.)
They played on the main stadium field, unlike the open practices the Spirit held last season, but the lines on the field were roughly 75×50 for the 9v9 game. The smaller field and smaller numbers made a goalfest that much more likely. So did the presence of Tiffany Weimer, who scorched the defense for four goals and an assist in the Red team’s 5-2 win.
A couple of those goals were defensive miscues by people who won’t be on the roster in three or four days. But Weimer also beat a couple of veterans. Better yet, she combined well with Danesha Adams, who set up one of those goals with a nifty back heel.
The highlight for the White team was the midfield pairing of Yael Averbuch and Jordan Angeli. Averbuch had a few slick passes, and Angeli opened the scoring.
The postgame highlight was seeing Angeli, who has been out of competition for nearly three years, talking about her goal and the feeling of playing in front of a crowd. She was near tears. Though Mark Parsons says she’s still a couple of weeks away from full match fitness, Spirit fans have good reason to be optimistic she’ll contribute. Angeli fans have even better reason to be happy.
But Spirit fans might worry that too many players are coming back from major injuries. Caroline Miller, whom a few message board posters are abandoning all too quickly, played about 20 uneventful minutes. Candace Chapman looked solid on the back line in limited time. Colleen Williams didn’t play.
It’s too soon to tell whether anyone will emerge from the trialists. Honestly, we couldn’t really identify most of them — the jerseys had no numbers, leaving us all to sort one ponytail from another. And a couple of them haven’t learned the art of waving when they’re introduced as starters.
Gloria Douglas converted her big chance after Weimer cut into the box with the ball, drew the defense and centered. But she’s trying to crack into a forward group that includes Weimer, Adams, Miller, Renae Cuellar, Jodie Taylor and maybe Williams (pending health and positioning).
The curiosity was North Carolina’s Meg Morris, a 5-2 tank. If you met her randomly away from the field, you’d never guess someone of such stature played soccer. But she’s surprisingly athletic and showed a bit of tactical sense. As Chris Henderson’s analysis points out, she was a consistent starter at Carolina but didn’t play a ton of minutes, rotating in the Anson Dorrance hockey-style line changes. If someone starts a women’s indoor league, she’d be dominant.
The other player who stood out was Mexican center back Bianca Sierra, who impressed Parsons with her poise. With Marisa Abegg retired and Chapman’s fitness still a question mark, she could be a sound insurance policy.
But it’s one game. I remember seeing an early practice last season in which Miller and Tiffany McCarty were absolutely dominant. Miller was starting to show it in the games last season before she was injured. McCarty lost her confidence somewhere early in the season and surely needed the change of scenery she got in the offseason.
This Spirit squad has a few players who can string together passes in the opposing third. A few fans were clearly drooling over the idea of Diana Matheson joining the fun when she returns to the Plex.
The two-word summary: Cautious optimism. We’ll check in again after we dig out from more snow.