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Returning Spirit coach Mark Parsons: Talent ‘is not enough’ in NWSL

Trinity Rodman practices with Washington Spirit teammates before a match in the 2022 season. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Four Washington Spirit players featured on the U.S. women’s national team roster for its recent World Cup tuneup in New Zealand.

For many of the team’s camps last year, even more Spirit players featured on the roster. Some of those players have departed in the offseason — Kelley O’Hara joined Gotham FC in free agency, while Emily Sonnett was traded to OL Reign.

But talent doesn’t make a team, returning Spirit coach Mark Parsons told his players as the team opened preseason training.

“We have a lot of talent here. We have a lot of talent there,” Parsons said as he gestured around the room. “Talent in this league, more than any other league, is not enough. You need talent, but it’s not enough.”

The Spirit know that truth better than most: They finished in 11th place out of 12 teams in the league standings in the 2022 season, just one year after they won the NWSL championship.

Parsons, 36, rejoined the team in the offseason after first coaching for Washington from 2013-15. He moved to the Portland Thorns after his three years with the Spirit and spent six years in Portland, winning the NWSL Shield in 2016 as well as the NWSL title in 2017.

He left to become manager of the Netherlands women’s national team in 2021, but he parted ways with the team in summer 2022.

Back with the Spirit, he is seeking to return the team to a championship level. To do so, the roster needs not just strength but cohesion. For example, after the Sonnett trade, Parsons said the team needed to “rebalance” what he called a “structural problem,” particularly ahead of this summer’s World Cup.

Parsons also wants to see all the individual talents come together to form a whole.

“The more successful we are as a group, the better every single one of you and us look in that process,” Parsons said.