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Spirit players: We ‘fully support’ Kris Ward’s dismissal

Washington Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan (12) and Houston Dash midfielder Marisa Viggiano (15) battle for the ball during the first half at PNC Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Spirit co-captain Andi Sullivan started the team’s postgame press conference Saturday with a statement on behalf of the players regarding coach Kris Ward’s firing.

“We are angered by Kris Ward’s answers in the piece by The Athletic,” Sullivan said. “We know the idiom there are two sides to every story, but that is simply not the case in this scenario.”

Ward spoke with The Athletic for a story published Thursday, with the coach recounting the events leading up to his Monday firing. The former Spirit head coach told The Athletic about an incident that took place during an Aug. 19 training session. According to Ward, he got upset and yelled at a player after she refused to leave a drill.

“This is the first time where I just kind of used volume instead of pulling a player aside by myself and going through it,” Ward told The Athletic, admitting he would handle the situation differently given the opportunity.

Ward also told the publication that he apologized to the players in a meeting that followed the training session.

The Washington Spirit players dispute his version of events.

“We know his interview to be a completely inaccurate recollection of a serious situation and furthermore the apology offered to us last Friday demonstrates a misalignment in his word and actions toward this team,” Sullivan told reporters.

Ward’s firing was announced Monday in a Tweet published to the club’s social media account, writing, “Kris Ward has been relieved of his duties as head coach.”

Sullivan says the players “full support the decision of the club to relieve (Ward) of his duties as head coach.” The co-captain added that the players will cooperate in a “proper course of action as it relates to circumstances like this one.”

Ward’s firing comes after a tumultuous and triumphant 2021 season that featured Richie Burke’s dismissal after accounts of inappropriate behavior, a public ownership battle and an innagurual NWSL championship.

The 2022 season has been a different story for Washington. Sullivan’s words followed the Spirit’s 2-2 draw with Houston Dash Saturday, extending the club’s winless streak to 18 games.