The Washington Spirit announced on Tuesday that Mark Parsons is their coach and general manager heading into the 2014 season, removing the interim tag.
Parsons replaced Mike Jorden on July 1, inheriting a last-place team with a 1-7-3 record on a five-game losing streak. That winless streak stretched to 13 games under Parsons, but Washington ended the year on a somewhat positive note, going unbeaten in the last three games.
Now Parsons, who was previously the Spirit Reserves coach and had previously spent time in roles with Chelsea FC and the Chelsea Ladies Reserves, has a full offseason to rebuild a roster in need of start-over. Plenty of work awaits.
Canadian midfielder Diana Matheson was the team’s best player, tallying eight goals and three assists en route to a Best XI selection, but lacked any sort of support. The rest of the team combined scored eight goals as the Spirit struggled through the season. Finding a quality striker who can add even 6-8 goals on top of Matheson’s in 2014 should be priority No. 1 for Parsons. The small, crafty, 5-foot playmaker is typically more comfortable setting up others.
Stephanie Ochs, who will play for Canberra in Australia’s W-League this offseason, alongside Spirit teammate Lori Lindsey, has the potential to be a striker at the next level but is yet to settle into such a role. She was played at several different positions — and, at times, out of position — in 2013.
In the back, 23-year-old Tori Huster is a player to build around, though whether she lines up with the back four or just in from of them remains to be seen. The assumption is that Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris will be back from Sweden in time for the start of the season.
And Nikki Marshall — also assuming she plays — could be a solution to either of those issues. She is versatile enough to play forward, as she did in some of her Washington Freedom days in 2010, or to play at central or outside fullback. Washington picked up Marshall off waivers on Monday after she started all 24 games at outside back for Portland Thorns FC, helping the team win a championship just 10 days earlier.
Washington holds the No. 1 pick in the 2014 college draft, which is widely assumed to be the Crystal Dunn lottery (assuming doesn’t forgo the draft and enter the league through U.S. Soccer allocation).
And all of those decisions don’t even touch on what Parsons’ responsibilities will be as GM. Chris Hummer stepped down from that role in August to dedicate more time to his soccer business. The Spirit have also promoted Ashlee Comber to vice president of operations, so she will likely help take some of the off-field responsibilities off of Parsons’ plate. Washington will want to maintain what ended up as a very solid base of fans despite the poor record.
What’s clear is that there is a lot to be done in Washington over the next six months. Parsons will now be the point man for all of that.