Friday, December 9, 2022

Washington Spirit fire head coach Kris Ward; club president says training incident led to dismissal

The Washington Spirit’s decision to fire head coach Kris Ward this week stems from what the club’s president said was an incident at training. The dismissal on Monday came with just six games remaining for the club this season. After winning the 2021 NWSL Championship, the team has gone 1-9-6 this season and are in 11th place in the 12-team league.

Spirit club president Mark Krikorian addressed the media on Thursday, a few days after the eleven-worded tweet announcing Ward’s termination, and explained there was “an incident at the training grounds,” but he declined to get into further details of the situation. He did not specify whether or not it was an isolated incident. Krikorian also told reporters that the occurrence was reported to both the league and the NWSL Players Association.

“It’s important to establish that, under Michele Kang’s leadership and guidance, that our goal here is to establish an environment where every decision we make is going to be in the best interest in the players,” Kirkorian told the media. 

The Spirit press conference ended with no further updates on their interim head coach search, or a future permanent head coach, as the organization is currently awaiting background checks before moving forward. Former NWSL player and first-year assistant coach Angela Salem has been running team training this week. Paul Crichton and Calle Brown are also still with the staff.

Ward had been a part of the Washington Spirit franchise since their inaugural season, and his termination comes just a year after he was named interim-head coach in August 2021. Ward coached the team on their impressive run into the playoffs last season where they crowned NWSL champions after a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars in extra time. 

The news of the dismissal also dropped on the same day the USWNT roster was announced for the upcoming friendlies in September. The national team will face Nigeria, and even with defender Emily Sonnett unavailable due to injury — the Spirit still have the most players represented by a single NWSL club on the roster.

Aubrey Kingsbury, Ashley Hatch, Kelley O’Hara, Trinity Rodman, and Ashley Sanchez are all set to participate in the upcoming camp, and have been part of a Spirit side that navigated a brutal match-load in first half of the 2022 regular season. 

The team featured in the 2022 Challenge Cup final and played several three game weeks to begin their season. Coupled with several players out for USWNT duty, the team was never able to reignite the spark under Ward, and are now on the brink of being officially eliminated from contention for the 2022 NWSL playoffs. 

The team in the meantime, the team is preparing to face the third-place Houston Dash on Saturday, Aug. 27, with Salem expected to be on the sidelines.

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