Jim Gabarra coached Washington teams in the first two U.S. women’s pro soccer leagues. Now, he is back for a third tour.
The former Washington Freedom boss (2001-03 and 2009-10) was named coach and general manager of the Washington Spirit on Wednesday, replacing Mark Parsons, who this month left the National Women’s Soccer League club for the Portland Thorns.
Gabarra, 56, coached New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC for three seasons, posting a 24-21-21 regular season record and a playoff appearance in 2013.
His wife, Carin, a former U.S. women’s national team star and member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, has coached the Naval Academy women’s program for more than 20 years. The family lives in Anne Arundel County, Md.
“My focus and passion is to contribute to this club’s rising success, as well as the development and growth of this special group of players,” Gabarra said in a written statement released by the club. “To be back at the SoccerPlex and interact with the Spirt fans is going to be fantastic.”
With Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach leading the way, Gabarra guided the Freedom to the 2003 Women’s United Soccer Association title. After the league folded, he coached the club’s amateur team. Gabarra remained in charge when the second pro league, Women’s Professional Soccer, was launched in 2009. He was dismissed after two seasons; WPS folded after the third year.
The Spirit, which plays home matches at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County, qualified for the NWSL playoffs each of the past two seasons, losing both times to the top-seeded Seattle Reign in the semifinals. Second-year forward Crystal Dunn was voted the league’s MVP this season after leading the league in scoring.
“Jim brings a lot of knowledge of the NWSL, all of the current players, the potential new players,” Spirit owner Bill Lynch said, “and also a very deep network in the D.C. area.”