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Ashley Sanchez solidifies future despite World Cup disappointment

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Ashley Sanchez signed a three-year contract extension with the Washington Spirit last week. (Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports)

Ashley Sanchez has returned to the NWSL with a vengeance.

The 24-year-old midfielder did not play in the 2023 World Cup, despite making the 23-player roster for the U.S. women’s national team. But upon her return to the NWSL, she has solidified her place as one of the game’s brightest young stars.

The Washington Spirit signed Sanchez to a three-year contract extension last Friday. While Sanchez was previously set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, her new contract runs through 2026.

“Keeping Sanchez with the Spirit is critical for this club,” Spirit coach Mark Parsons said in a statement. “Her world-class technical ability and goal-scoring quality are very important to the success of our team.”

Sanchez said she’s “looking forward” to continuing her career in Washington, having been “fortunate to take a lot of strides in my game” during her four years in D.C.

Among those strides was earning a place on the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup roster. Sanchez has 25 career caps, three goals and four assists with the USWNT. Before the World Cup, she made eight appearances in 2023, averaging 50 minutes per match. But at the tournament, the attacking midfielder did not see the field, having been replaced on the depth chart first by USWNT newcomer Savannah DeMelo, and then by veteran defender Emily Sonnett.

Sanchez has been open about her role at the World Cup, noting that what then-head coach Vlatko Andnovski told her ahead of the tournament was different from what played out in Australia and New Zealand. The USWNT fell to Sweden in a penalty shootout in the Round of 16, marking their earliest exit ever from a World Cup.

“Let’s just say the role (I was told I would fill) was not what I played,” she told the Washington Post.

Since returning to the NWSL in late August, Sanchez has made a statement on the field. Just 40 seconds into her first game back with Washington, she scored a goal in a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dash. Sanchez’s fifth goal of the season put her six behind league leader Sophia Smith. And her 1.20 shots on target per 90 is good for ninth in the league, ahead of star players like Alex Morgan.

“Revenge mode was coming,” Parsons said after Sanchez’s return. “It came really quick, and I think that helps. Being involved, she’s now feeling good.”