The Washington Spirit host the University of North Carolina on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at the Maryland SoccerPlex in a tough preseason test. Here’s what to look for ahead of the match:
Where will Dunn play?
If you’re Mark Parsons, where do you play Crystal Dunn? This hypothetical question has been discussed as much as any other question surrounding the Spirit in the offseason. This past fall, the former Tar Heel became the first player to win both the ACC Offensive Player of the Year Award and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award. As Washington faces off against Dunn’s former college team tomorrow, NWSL fans hope they’ll soon know.
While Parsons didn’t disclose the full answer on Wednesday, he said it would be clear as soon as she stepped out onto the field. Dunn’s position on the field has “got to be where she can get at people, where she can create problems and score goals,” he explained.
Parsons gave another clue about Dunn’s position when he discussed the team’s newest signing, Niki Cross. He listed off the team’s other defenders and Dunn was not included. This seems to exclude Dunn from an outside back position. Parsons, also made a reference to possibly playing a 4-3-3 formation, which may further tip off where Dunn will play.
Dunn has spent the better part of the last five months on the sidelines after a series of injuries kept her off the field. She said she’s feeling about 95 percent and when asked if she’d see the field against UNC, she answered, “we’ll see.” She’s not sure whether it would be good for her to make her preseason debut against her former side. “I feel like it might be best for me to sit this one out now just because I’m emotionally attached to the team and I feel like I would have to give my all against my old college team.”
Niki Cross and another possible addition
Possibly the biggest news from the Spirit camp this week was the announcement that defender Niki Cross will join the team in June. The Spirit traded their second round pick in the 2015 draft to Seattle, who held Cross’ NWSL rights.
Parsons called Cross, “very, very gifted defender…. I think the biggest thing is she’s cultured. She’s gets the ball down, she wants to play.” Cross, a UConn alum is currently playing in Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga for Bayern Munich. Cross is a welcome addition to the Spirit’s defense, which lacks depth.
While he’s excited about the team’s newest signing, Parsons said that he will continue to look to strengthen every position on the field, adding that the team may pick up another defender in June. Given the timing for this potential signing, and the fact that all of the Spirit’s international slots have been accounted for, it appears as though the Spirit might have eyes on an American currently playing in Europe.
Traditionally, the rosters of the Washington Spirit Reserves — and predecessor D.C. United Women — were made up of players with ties to the local area. For the large part, the players either lived in the area, or went to school at a nearby college. This season, the Spirit W-League team appears to be broadening the talent pool a bit. The emphasis of the reserve team is still developing local talent, but the reserves will feature up to four young players that could play at the professional level in the future.
Spirit fans might want to keep their eyes on rising Carolina senior Satara Murray on Saturday as she’s the first such player signed to the Spirit Reserves. Look for announcements about the other ‘out of towners’ in the next couple of weeks.
Parsons comments Wednesday echoed statements he made back in January regarding the reserve team. At the time he said the the team had recently “received a couple of commitments from some unbelievable players that have great futures.”
Last week, Washington shocked many when it announced via Twitter that Menchel, a 2014 Spirit draftee and former Spirit Reserves player, was not in camp and was “pursuing other opportunities.” As it turns out, the other opportunity Menchel is pursuing is with Olympique Lyon.
Menchel isn’t the only young player from the D.C. metro area to train with the club powerhouse recently. Area soccer fans may remember that Washington Spirit Reserves player and U.S. U-20 captain Andi Sullivan spent some time training with the French club last summer.
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