The Washington Spirit went through one of the most contentious ownership fights in NWSL history during the 2021 season, with Michele Kang eventually buying the team from former majority owner Steve Baldwin in March.
The battle for control over the club was highly publicized as the back-and-forth unfolded throughout the year. Amid the chaos, the Spirit players wrote an open letter urging Baldwin to sell the team to Kang in October and placing their trust in the entrepreneur.
“I just feel like everyone felt like there was no control, like we had no control over anything,” Trinity Rodman told Spirit teammate Kelley O’Hara on the latest episode of The Players’ Pod. “That was the most frustrating thing is like, we were just going to practice every day, then going on Twitter. There was no structure.”
Emily Sonnett, who joined Rodman and Andi Sullivan on the podcast, shared in her teammate’s frustration.
“How are all these other people getting this information, and we just can’t get a stinkin’ email?” Sonnett said of last season’s front-office turmoil. “I have never been on a team that operates like this. It’s just an email. You don’t even have to come to training and look me in the face. You can just send me an email.”
Despite the off-field drama, the Spirit persevered, winning the first NWSL championship in franchise history.
Rodman, named the NWSL’s Rookie of the Year days before the championship game, was still visibly anxious entering the game.
“I was nervous. I was freaking out,” Roadman said. “I threw up before the game. I’ve never had thrown up off being nervous. I literally was so nervous.”
Sonnett, a veteran with plenty of experience in big games, would not let the season end in horror as her teammates’ nerves took over.
“I looked at Kelley, and I go, ‘We did not come here, to the last game, for everyone to fall apart.’ I go, ‘This is not happening.’ I go, ‘Everyone relax, throw up, relax. We are about to go play soccer, enough you guys,’” Sonnett recalled telling the team.
O’Hara, who scored the game-winning goal in extra time of the championship game, remembered thinking, “I can’t believe this is,” as she walked out on the field. Rodman and Ashley Sanchez were nowhere to be found.
The rookies ultimately regained their composure and helped their team to a title-clinching win. Now fresh off an appearance in the Challenge Cup final, the Spirit are looking to reach new heights in 2022.
“For Michele (Kang), the sky’s the limit,” Rodman said. “I feel like she wants top for us with everything, and I didn’t feel that way before. She shoots for the stars.”
“I think Michele is hungry to learn about soccer and how the operations work and how can you make this the north star for soccer — not just women’s soccer, but soccer,” Sullivan added.
Listen to the full episode of The Players’ Pod for more on the Spirit’s championship season.