Washington Spirit fire Kris Ward with six games left in NWSL season

Kris Ward is out as Washington’s head coach. (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)

The defending NWSL champion Washington Spirit have fired coach Kris Ward, the club announced Monday.

The club provided no further context regarding the move, which comes with just six matches remaining in the regular season.

Ward, 42, stepped into the role of interim head coach last August. He took over for Richie Burke, who was suspended and later fired following an investigation into abuse allegations. Ward ended up leading the club on a run to its first NWSL championship, and he was hired as the permanent head coach in December.

While Ward guided Washington to an NWSL title and then to a Challenge Cup final appearance in the 2022 preseason, the team’s performance since then has been abysmal.

The Spirit have not won a game since their season opener on May 1. Their 17-game winless streak includes nine draws and six losses in the regular season, as well as a draw and a loss to close out the Challenge Cup.

The club sits in 11th place in the 12-team league with 12 points. NJ/NY Gotham FC also has 12 points, but brings up the rear in the standings due to goal differential.

Ward recently called out the conditions at the team’s own home field, calling it an “abomination” that a professional game had to be played at Segra Field. The Spirit split time between Segra, a 5,000-seat stadium in Leesburg, Va., and Audi Field, a 20,000-seat stadium in Washington.

Six Spirit players feature on the USWNT roster, which led to questions about the Spirit’s poor showing.

USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski was asked Monday about the status of the Spirit, and he said USWNT staff were “happy” with Spirit players’ performances for the national team.

“I don’t think they are in the best form that they can be,” he said. “But also we are very happy with how they perform when they are in our environment. We’re monitoring their form and how they are doing in their environment.

“There may be a point where we feel like somebody doesn’t deserve to be in our camp. But as of right now we trust them, they are all good players, they are all young players, players with a lot of potential that we believe will help us be successful going forward.”

The Spirit have not named an interim head coach. Until they do, first-year assistant Angela Salem will oversee practices, the Washington Post reported.

While The Athletic’s Pablo Iglesias Maurer reported “rumblings” that general manager Mark Krikorian could guide the team in its final four games, he is not expected to replace Ward, a source told the Washington Post. Krikorian joined the club following a long career at Florida State that included multiple NCAA titles.