“He lost the locker room months ago, and it kept getting worse,” one person close to the situation said on the condition of anonymity. “It was a shattered bunch.”
Assistant Tom Torres will serve as the interim head coach for the final three games, starting Wednesday against the Utah Royals at Maryland SoccerPlex. The team said it will begin the search for a permanent replacement at the end of the season.
Team President Chris Hummer will inherit the general manager’s responsibilities.
The move comes four days before the Spirit will play the Portland Thorns at D.C. United’s Audi Field, a test run for possible additional matches at the new venue starting next season.
“Jim has put as much of his heart and soul into women’s soccer, this league and this team as anyone,” Spirit owner Bill Lynch said in a written statement. “He is a great professional with exceptional character and we can’t thank him enough for his efforts and wish him the best of luck.”
Gabarra was notified Monday and addressed the players before training Tuesday. He did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Gabarra’s ties to women’s professional soccer in Washington run deep. With Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach leading the way, he coached the Washington Freedom to the Women’s United Soccer Association title in 2003. After the WUSA folded, Gabarra oversaw the organization’s amateur team. When Women’s Professional Soccer launched in 2009 and ’10, he was back in charge.
Gabarra, 58, guided Sky Blue from 2013 to 2015 before taking the Spirit helm in 2016. That year, Washington finished second in the regular season, defeated Chicago in the semifinals and led Western New York in extra time before conceding a late goal and losing in a penalty-kick tiebreaker.
Amid off-field turmoil, the Spirit overturned its roster before the 2017 season, trading, among others, captain Ali Krieger. It was part of Gabarra’s plan for the Spirit to build a young nucleus, an effort that appeared to take hold early this year with a squad that included U.S. national team prospects Mallory Pugh, Rose Lavelle, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Hatch and Taylor Smith.
However, with mounting injuries weakening Gabarra’s ranks, the Spirit has won once in the past 16 matches and gone scoreless in the past five. Overall, Washington has scored 11 goals, six fewer than Sky Blue (0-14-5).
After a 4-0 defeat at Houston on Friday, Gabarra said: “The idea is to get some momentum here the last three games and get some good results and figure out who’s going to be here next year.”