Mark Parsons is back in the NWSL. After starting his career with the Washington Spirit, Parsons is back again for another round in the nation’s capital.
Parsons was named Washington Spirit head coach on Monday, Nov. 21. He returns to the National Women’s Soccer League after coaching in the Netherlands, where he was the Dutch manager for a year from 2021-2022. He and the Dutch mutually parted ways after the Netherlands’ loss to France in the EURO 2022 quarterfinals against France. Parsons coached the Spirit from 2013-2015, and then jumping ship to the Portland Thorns, where he won the 2017 NWSL Championship.
During his time in Portland, Parsons won the 2017 NWSL Championship over the North Carolina Courage, but also captured two NWSL Shield Titles (2016 and 2021), the NWSL Challenge Cup title in 2021 and the Women’s International Champions Cup title in 2021.
Parsons said that he is ready for a return to the “intense” NWSL. He also spoke about, when talking to Washington owner Y. Michele Kang, there was a clear vision for the Spirit.
“Michele has been very, very clear in her vision,” Parsons said. “After multiple conversations, she not only has the vision, but she’s acting and putting everything into that vision. Every time I speak with her and Mark (Krikorian), something else has happened. There’s a new person, a new hire, a new project underway.”
The common theme through Parsons remarks was conversation about vision, but also the Spirit’s future. Parsons is no stranger to building teams. He did it before with Washington in his first NWSL coaching stint, and he did it in Portland, too.
“It takes time, a building process, to get to the good moments,” Parsons explained. “We’re going to have that in 2023. It’s about now, tomorrow and next week, but also with the future in mind. Same with DC, in 2014, it was about winning championships in the future. In my first year in Portland, we were minutes away in stoppage time to face my old team in the final. It would have been a great experience.
“The vision is very clear, and it starts from the top with Michele. I think she made that clear with hiring Mark [Krikorian]… I want to be able to learn, support and grow [from Mark],” Parsons continued. “Mark has the main job of executing the vision. I’m just grateful to come in and play a part that’s bigger than all of us — giving female athletes the platform they deserve.”
Parsons explained that the hiring of key staff members has also been focused towards the present and future. Washington recently hired former Chicago Red Stars assistant coach Morinao Imaizumi, giving him the player development coach role. Dawn Scott, formerly of the US women’s national team and Inter Miami in MLS, has been hired as the senior director of performance, medical and innovation. Parsons also inherits a coaching staff that includes Angela Salem — who recently welcomed her first child and played for Parsons in Portland and one year in Washington.
“If you look at what Mark has done, it’s unbelievably modern and big picture,” Parsons said. “There have been key hires and I’m allowed to be involved in the process. It’s very difficult for me to find anyone that’s going to bring the expertise that he has. There is a foundation that can build the club and there is space where I can bring in staff and I would like to work with and have worked with. This was the first step. In regards to Angela, I see that as a valuable piece. Having someone that has been on the playing side, but it also speeds up the messaging from the staff. She knows that part… We want to bring success back to DC and that takes a lot. Over the next few months, you’ll see more in completing the staff.”
Parsons also inherits a roster with plenty of youth. Washington has 2021 Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman leading the attack, along with regular US call up Ashley Sanchez and 2021 Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch. Recently, the team exercised club options on Sam Staab, Jordan Baggett, Dorian Bailey, Bayley Feist, Anna Heilferty, Maddie Elwell and Tara McKeown, while extending contract offers to Camryn Biegalski, Julia Roddar and Marissa Sheva.
Parsons said that the young team is “very hungry, wants to grow, wants to learn and be challenged.”
“They had great success in 2021. We know there is going to be a great challenge ahead,” Parsons said. “We have to be a team. When I spoke to the team early on, that was the most important thing: identity on and off the pitch. Building a team takes time. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it and I know every experience is different. When you have a group that wants to learn, you have a chance.”