When the U.S. women’s national team visited Washington in September for a friendly, Mark Parsons reached out to midfielder Yael Averbuch to join him for coffee. Parsons is the Washington Spirit’s head coach. At the time, Averbuch was on brief leave from Swedish club Goteborg for the Mexico match.
Knowing Averbuch might land in the U.S.-based National Women’s Soccer League in 2014, Parsons sought to build a rapport.
“I am a big admirer of how she plays,” Parsons said Friday. “If she had ended up being allocated to another club, at some point we would have tried to bring her in.”
Parsons need not go to such lengths.
When the NWSL announced the allocation of 50 players Friday — 26 Americans, 16 Canadians and eight Mexicans from their respective national teams — Averbuch landed with the Spirit. She joins U.S. national team colleagues Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, who will return for their second season in Washington. Canadians Diana Matheson and Robyn Gayle are also back. Mexico’s Renae Cuellar, acquired from Seattle, was the other allocation.
Averbuch, 27, has made 26 national team appearances and scored once. She served with Sky Blue FC and the Western New York Flash in the NWSL’s predecessor, Women’s Professional Soccer. But when WPS shut down in 2011, she moved to Russia and then Sweden.
“She is not a typical crash-bang player — she is cultured and technical. Her game is about possession and tempo. That’s how we want to play,” said Parsons, the Spirit’s head coach since the middle of last season and the club’s newly appointed general manager.
The U.S. Soccer Federation, which pays the salaries of allocated players and oversees the national team, has been encouraging foreign-based talent to sign with the second-year domestic league.
Averbuch, who is 5 feet 10 and starred at North Carolina, was among 28 players named to Tom Sermanni‘s national team training camp, which will open Wednesday in Carson, Calif. He will trim the roster ahead of the Jan. 31 friendly against Canada in Frisco, Tex. Sermanni is building up to this fall’s qualifying tournament for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
The acquisition of Averbuch will bolster Washington’s possession game, which never gained traction during last season’s last-place campaign. She will provide support for attacking midfielder Matheson, the club’s only productive player in 2013 (eight goals, three assists).
Parsons will also turn to attack-minded Christine Nairn, a Maryland native who was acquired from Seattle earlier in the offseason, and continue to utilize deep-sitting midfielder Lori Lindsey, a U.S. national team veteran who is no longer classified as an allocated player. (The U.S., Canadian and Mexican federations subsidize the league by paying the salaries of allocated players. Lindsey signed a regular contract with the Spirit during the offseason.)
The Spirit (16 goals in 24 matches) addressed the frontline by nabbing Cuellar and English striker Jodie Taylor. German veteran Conny Pohlers will not return after serving on loan last year.
Parsons said he is aiming to sign one or two additional foreign players and bracing to lose someone in next week’s expansion draft, which will help build the Houston Dash’s inaugural roster. Houston has hired Notre Dame Coach Randy Waldrum.
The NWSL has yet to finalize the order of the Jan. 17 college draft in Philadelphia. Washington expects to select first, although Houston’s arrival has complicated matters. Whoever holds the top pick is almost certain to claim Crystal Dunn, a North Carolina star who played in midfield this past fall but is a right back for the national team. She won the Hermann Trophy last season and is a finalist this year.
NWSL training camps will open around March 10. The nine-team schedules have not been announced but the openers are slated for mid-April.
The Spirit will continue to play home matches at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County, where, despite a 3-14-5 record, the club posted the fourth-best attendance in the league with an average of 3,625 spectators.
Video of Averbuch’s goal four seconds into a 2006 college match (4.1 million views):