During a midweek training session earlier this month, Washington Spirit coach Mark Parsons was pleased with the team’s progress. After five games into the NWSL regular season, the Spirit finally started connecting from the backline through midfield to forward. However, something was still missing – it took too long for the team to find Ashley Sanchez on the field. Parsons spoke to the team, reassuring them of Sanchez’s importance, and how she should be the first and second thought on the field. When the Spirit faced the San Diego Wave, it was apparent that the players had taken the message onboard. Sanchez scored her first goal of the season, helping the Spirits win 3-1.
Sanchez has been instrumental in the Spirit’s success this season. The team went unbeaten in their first seven games, a record for any team and the club’s best start season to date. Next month, the USA Women’s National Team will announce its squad for this summer’s World Cup. Sanchez, having made 24 appearances since 2021, is working towards securing her spot in the 23-man squad.
Sanchez is an important player for the team, working towards improving her skills each week. The off-season operations have generated returns in terms of investment and on-field results, and players like Sanchez can take advantage of new resources, from practice drone footage to customized video breakdowns.
Playing for Sanchez, she focuses on spacing. She observes whether her opposing defender follows or stays, and determines her next move from there. She’s always looking for the best spot on the field to make an early pass or drive to a defender. With the Spirit’s new system, Sanchez is also pressing more than usual.
Sanchez has been a cornerstone of the Spirit’s attacking success for three seasons, reflected on the national team stage, with the two starting for the first time in a friendly in New Zealand in January. Manager Vlatko Andonovski has praised Rodman’s finishing, Sanchez’s creativity and quality of the ball, while also calling to see more of their connection at club level. The Spirit’s environment is well-equipped to make it happen.
Sanchez is looking forward to Sunday’s game against leaders New Jersey/New York Gotham FC, which could be a rare opportunity to earn points. NWSL players will be released from their clubs for international duty by June 26, with Washington having five regular-season games left before its stars leave to prepare for the World Cup. It will be what helps Sanchez get into the national team.
Sanchez is dedicated to doing what it takes to secure her spot in the national team, and she knows that as long as she keeps improving, her team will be happy with her.