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From Liverpool, with titles: DaCosta back in US

Amanda DaCosta (right) is back in the U.S. to play for the Washington Spirit.

Amanda DaCosta (right) is back in the U.S. to play for the Washington Spirit.

American midfielder Amanda DaCosta was a key part of Liverpool’s two FAWSL title-winning sides in 2013 and 2014.

DaCosta was an All-American at Florida State University, spent one year in WPS with magicJack (2011), went to the Boston Breakers in WPSL Elite (2012) after WPS folded and then left for England to join the Reds. Now she is back in the United States with the Washington Spirit in the NWSL.

This fall’s repeat triumph with Liverpool saw a very exciting conclusion to the season. Liverpool entered the last game of the season in third, three points behind Chelsea and one behind Birmingham City.

When Birmingham surprisingly tied 6th-place Notts County (2-2) at home, City finished with 25 points. Chelsea then came undone by falling to 5th-place Manchester City 2-1 away when all they needed was a tie for the title. Liverpool thus had a chance and their 3-0 win at home over Bristol Academy — with all the goals coming in the second half — allowed the Reds to pip Chelsea on goal difference (+9 to +7) after both sides finished with 26 points.

Chelsea is led by former Chicago Red Stars (WPS) head coach Emma Hayes, who also consulted with the Western New York Flash when they won their 2011 WPS title. Both sides qualified for the 2015-16 UEFA Women’s Champions League, while Birmingham’s defeat cost them a European spot for next season. DaCosta explained that the last game was a bit surreal for her and her squad mates.

“The last few weeks were a roller coaster,” she said. “We went away to Arsenal and battled out to a draw and then [had a] Champions League [Round of 32] match against Linköpings of Sweden which they won 2-1 on October 8th before losing the return leg 3-0 and the tie a week later, with fellow American Katie Fraine in goal for the Damallsvenkan side thrown in the mix. We beat Bristol (3-0) and didn’t celebrate and got into a team huddle— Chelsea went into extra time but we had to wait a few minutes on the pitch for the result.”

[REWIND: Archive of Amanda DaCosta blogs on The Equalizer]

After two highly successful seasons—with over 40 appearances—in England, DaCosta has decided to come home and join the Washington Spirit in the NWSL.

“If you are remaining in your comfort zone for too long, you are not really challenging yourself to get better,” DaCosta said of the change. “I’ve always believed in that. When I made the decision to go to Liverpool originally, I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone; things were working out so well over there, I didn’t want to leave my team [as] they had become my family. We had the end to a great season and participating in Champions League was something I wanted to do for a very long time….I’ve done everything I could in terms of my performance in Liverpool; I’ve grown a lot as a player, had a great two seasons there and gotten better.”

She had been following the professional game development at home over the past few years.

“I’ve watched the progress of NWSL,” DaCosta said. “It seemed right and I was ready for a new challenge again, a new chance to grow as a person, grow as a player. It happened very quickly with the Spirit and just fell into place. (Spirit head coach) Mark Parsons and I were on the same page in our beliefs in the game; it was a perfect place for me to end up and definitely came at the right time….I’m excited to work with him.”

DaCosta was on the list of the Spirit’s discovery players that they could negotiate with exclusively.

After a disastrous first season in NWSL when the Spirit finished last among the eight teams on a 3-5-14 record, Mark Parsons led the squad to the playoffs in his first full season in charge in 2014, finishing fourth with a 10-5-9 record. DaCosta will be joining a strong squad including defender Crystal Dunn and American midfielder Christine Nairn, who had a fantastic winter with Melbourne Victory.

Along with DaCosta, Parsons is bringing in Welsh international forward Natasha Harding from Bristol Academy for this season, Mexican international defender Arianna Romero (ex-Houston Dash and University of Nebraska) and surprise signing Argentinian international forward Estefania Banini. Argentina has fallen off at the full national team level after qualifying for the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, missing out on the 2011 and 2015 finals. However, Banini, 24, has been playing for Colo Colo in Chile for years while the team won the Women’s Copa Libertadores as South American Champions in 2012 and finished as runners-up in 2011 and third in 2013.

DaCosta has Portuguese heritage and actually carries a Portuguese passport, which allowed her to play in England as a European Union citizen, rather than taking a valuable import spot. In spite of her dual citizenship, DaCosta is committed to the U.S. national team, which she played for at the youth level (from U-15 to U-23). She explains that while a call to the full national team “hasn’t happened yet, my loyalty remains with the U.S. and I am hopeful for something to come of that in the future. The only thing you can control is to do your best and hope one day you get an opportunity.”

She said that playing for Portugal is not out of the question in the future if she remains uncapped but right now she is focused on playing for the country of her birth: “I’ve had the chance to go and play on the Portuguese national team and it’s definitely not off my list; I would consider it if it meant being able to participate in a World Cup or Olympics but certainly not currently.”

DaCosta does feel that it is beneficial for national teams to bring in players from abroad which “adds a different style.” Part of her rationale to come back to the U.S. was to heighten her chances of playing at the national team level.

“If you want to play for the U.S. you need to be seen in the U.S…. It was a good time to come back with the Women’s World Cup [this summer], which should be an exciting time,” she said.

It will be interesting to see if DaCosta can bring her championship winning experience to inspire the Washington Spirit to the 2015 NWSL title, which would be her third top tier league crown in three years.

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