News & Politics

Biden, Ovechkin Congratulate Washington Spirit on First Championship

"People have no idea what we've all gone through," said Spirit defender Kelley O’Hara.

Photo by Chris Colvin/Washington Spirit

The Washington Spirit became the city’s newest championship team on Saturday, securing an overtime victory in the dramatic finale of a season that forced the players to overcome much more than their on-field opponents.

The Spirit’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars represents the team’s first National Women’s Soccer League title. It comes less than two months after the club’s primary owner, Steve Baldwin, stepped down as the Spirit’s top executive following allegations that a toxic workplace culture had developed inside the organization. 

Those claims first surfaced in August in a Washington Post investigation, which reported that verbal abuse from the Spirit’s former head coach, Richie Burke, had caused at least four of the team’s players to leave the club. (Burke stepped down as the Post was conducting its investigation.) The NWSL subsequently conducted its own investigation, which, according to the Post, unearthed allegations that the Spirit’s organization maintained a toxic, “old boys’ club” culture.

Against this backdrop, Kelley O’Hara’s game-winning goal in the 97th minute of the match gave the Spirit a title that is especially poignant. “I can’t describe it, because of everything we’ve been through, and the fact that we’re ending it as NWSL champions is pretty crazy and very special,” O’Hara told the Associated Press. “I’m really proud of this team. People have no idea what we’ve all gone through, and the resiliency and the perseverance of every single player on this team is pretty incredible.”

Over the weekend, the team received congratulations from a number of high-profile Washingtonians. Here’s a look at a few, via Twitter:

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.