Kris Ward was named head coach of the Washington Spirit on a permanent basis after leading the club to its first NWSL Championship. (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)

The Washington Spirit have named Kris Ward as the club’s next head coach, the team announced Monday, removing the interim tag after Ward led the club to the NWSL Championship.

Ward first joined the club in August 2020 as the Spirit’s Team Tactical Analysis & Player Performance Development Coach. He was named as acting head coach in early August 2021 following the firing of Richie Burke due to accusations of verbal and emotional abuse.

After taking over, Ward helped the team to a 9-2-3 record and the club’s first NWSL Championship.

“Kris guided this team through a turbulent season that ultimately led to our club’s first championship win,” said Spirit President Ben Olsen. “When you look at his record, it’s clear that he’s earned this. But more than that, he has helped to foster a positive environment for the players. We are very excited to keep him with us and look forward to the 2022 season.”

In addition to the Spirit’s coaching change, the club faced other off-the-field controversies. Y. Michele Kang and Steve Baldwin continue to fight for control of the team, despite players’ insistence that Baldwin sell the team to Kang, who recently offered a record $35 million for the club. Instead, Baldwin is reportedly selling the team to a group led by Todd Boehly and Jennifer Mackesy.

The club also dealt with numerous COVID-19 protocol violations, which led to the forfeit of two matches.

Despite this, the team won its first championship in club history. In addition, Trinity Rodman was named NWSL Rookie of the Year.