The team got off to a so-so start, posting a 5-4-3 (five wins, four losses and three draws) record during the first three months of the season.
In early August, The Washington Post reported that Spirit Head Coach Richie Burke screamed, threatened and insulted players. That’s something coaches at any level should never do. Burke’s treatment of players was so bad that one former Spirit player told The Post that he made her “hate soccer.”
The NWSL investigated the Spirit organization for a toxic work culture, meaning the team was a terrible place for players to play and people to work. In late September, the NWSL announced it was suspending the Spirit from league business and that Burke was fired.
In addition, the Spirit players took the extraordinary step of calling for a male owner of the team (Steve Baldwin) to sell his share of the team to a female owner (Y. Michele Kang).
All this happened during a season when the league was investigating several teams for harassing and mistreating players. The NWSL players stopped their games for one minute during early October in a leaguewide protest of playing conditions.
In addition, the Spirit had to forfeit two games in September because of an outbreak of the coronavirus on the team. Several team members had violated league rules meant to keep the players healthy.
All this craziness is not usually a formula for team success. But the Spirit has hung together and is hot at just the right time. The team has not lost a match (except for the forfeits) since August 7, posting a late season surge of 8-0-3.
Can the Spirit finish this wild season with a championship? The Chicago Red Stars will be tough. They knocked off the regular season champion, Portland Thorns, in the semifinals, 2-0.
Most soccer matches are won by one or two big plays, and the Spirit has some big playmakers. Ashley Hatch led all goal scorers in the NWSL by putting 11 balls into the net.
Nineteen-year-old Trinity Rodman, the daughter of basketball Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman, had seven goals, including a key score against the OL Reign.
On defense, Aubrey Bledsoe started all 24 matches and allowed only 21 goals.
The championship game will be broadcast Saturday at noon on CBS. Isn’t it nice to have a championship game when kids can watch? So watch. In a season such as the Spirit’s, something unexpected is bound to happen.