Boyds, Maryland — After initially being reported as a hire two weeks ago, the Washington Spirit have publicly — and officially — named Richie Burke as the club’s next head coach.
The Spirit had the news first reported by Steven Goff of the Washington Post two weeks ago. However, with only two days to spare until the NWSL College Draft, the team made the official announcement Tuesday. Burke’s technical staff was also announced.
Washington Spirit officially announce head coach Richie Burke, technical staff
Burke is now the fifth-ever head coach in club history. Last season, Jim Gabarra was fired during the season and Tom Torres took over as interim head coach. Gabarra was first hired in October 2015.
Meanwhile, this is Burke’s first time coaching women’s soccer.
A native of Liverpool, England, Burke spent his playing career in the United States with the Washington Diplomats and Washington Stars before moving to Australia to join Sydney Olympic. He then went back to his native country to feature for Chester City. However, he returned to the United States, but featured for the indoor league Washington Warthogs in 1994.
He remained in Washington to coach, joining the staff for the Northern Virginia Royals in 2011. Burke remained with the club, which is part of the USL’s Premier Development League, until 2012.
Burke then traveled to Scotland in 2013, joining the staff for Livingston FC. His most recent coaching experience is with D.C. United of Major League Soccer. However, he coached the club’s U-23 team.
Burke also coached in D.C. United’s academy from 2005-10. He rejoined D.C. United in 2014, after his stint in Scotland.
“I’ve worked with professional men’s teams in both the U.K. and U.S., and now the chance to work with professional women is very exciting,” Burke said, via a Washington Spirit press release. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to coach this team of world-class players, alongside a knowledgeable and passionate group of coaches and staff. We will work tirelessly to provide Spirit fans with an exciting brand of football that they will be proud of, and establish a winning culture on and off the field.”
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) January 3, 2019
Burke names a technical staff
Burke isn’t alone in being a new face at the Washington Spirit.
Michael Minthorne was named the team’s high performance coach. Meanwhile, Christian Cziommer was hired as the club’s tactical analyst and team performance coach.
However, the Spirit is returning key members of former technical staffs. Tom Torres, who served as the interim head coach after Gabarra’s firing, will return as a player/opponent analyst and technical development coach. Meanwhile, Kati Jo “KJ” Spisak will continue in her role as a scouting and reserve team head coach. The reserve team is the Washington Spirit Reserves, who compete in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).
In addition, Ben Berczek returns as the equipment manager and training coordinator for Washington.
However, a new face has joined the front office. Last week, the club announced the team’s first-ever CEO, Larry Best. According to the Spirit, his duties will include “club strategy and operations, along with the hiring and management of technical staff.”
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) December 31, 2018
The Washington Spirit roster — so far
Burke is inheriting a young team.
Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch and Andi Sullivan are names highlighted on the roster. Hatch led the team in scoring last year with four goals. Meanwhile, Lavelle was mostly injured last year, but when she competed, she saw action in 11 matches. However, she did not score once last year.
Pugh is looking to rebound after a shaky season. In 15 appearances — she battled injury, too — Pugh scored two goals and provided one assist.
Sullivan didn’t live up to rookie expectations, providing one assist in 23 appearances. She did not score a single goal in her rookie season. Sullivan, who was named as a late addition to the U.S. Women’s National Team roster for upcoming friendlies, will look to have a better sophomore season.
Meanwhile, Washington also returns some key defensive players. Aubrey Bledsoe is expected to be back for Washington. Also slated to return are defenders Estelle Johnson and Caprice Dydasco. Cheyna Mathews — formerly Cheyna Williams — spent the season last year away from the pitch, as she gave birth to her first child. There has been no comment to if she will play this season, but could be a possibility.
Washington also has the draft coming up.
The Spirit hold the fourth and eighth overall picks in the first round. In the later rounds, Washington holds the 20th, 29th and 31st overall picks. The team does not have a selection in the second round — unless there is a trade.
The NWSL College Draft will be held Thursday at 12 p.m. ET in Chicago, during the United Soccer Coaches Convention. The NWSL will live-stream the draft on their official website and through their YouTube and Facebook channels.
The #NWSLDraft is just ✌️ days away!
Take a look ahead at what's in store in Chicago.
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) January 8, 2019