Tim Grainey chats with Amanda DaCosta about her move from two-time FA WSL Champion Liverpool to Washington Spirit for the 2015 season
American midfielder Amanda DaCosta was a key part of Liverpool's two FA WSL title winning sides in 2013 and 2014 and is also familiar to tribalfootball.com readers as a columnist during her time at Liverpool. DaCosta was an All-American at Florida State University (who won the NCAA Championship for the first time in 2014), spent one year in WPS with magicJack (2011), went to the Boston Breakers in WPSL Elite (2012) after WPS folded and then left for England to join the Reds.
This fall's repeat triumph saw a very exciting conclusion to the season. Liverpool entered the last game of the season in third, three points behind Chelsea and one behind Birmingham City. When Birmingham surprisingly tied 6th placed Notts County (2-2) at home, City finished with 25 points on a 7-4-3 record. Chelsea then came undone by falling to Manchester City 2-1 away (who finished 5th on 19 points) when all they needed was a tie for the title. Liverpool thus had a chance and their 3-0 win over Bristol Academy, with all the goals coming in the second half, allowed the Reds to pip Chelsea on goal difference (+9 to +7) after both sides finished with 26 points from 14 games.
Both Liverpool and Chelsea qualified for the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League while Birmingham were unfortunate to miss out on a European campaign after starting the day holding the last berth. Bristol finished seventh of eight teams with 16 points and retained their FA WSL1 place for next season.
DaCosta explained that the last game was a bit surreal for her and her squad mates: "The last few weeks were a roller coaster. We went away to Arsenal and battled out to a draw and then [had a] Champions League [Round of 32 match against Linkopings of Sweden which they won 2-1 on October 8th before losing the return leg 3-0 and the tie a week later, with fellow American Katie Fraine in goal for the Damallsvenkan side thrown in the mix.
"We beat Bristol (3-0) and didn't celebrate and got into a team huddle-Chelsea went into extra time but we had to wait a few minutes on the pitch for the result."
After two highly successful seasons-with over 40 appearances-in England, she has decided to come home and joined Washington Spirit in NWSL, coached by Englishman Mark Parsons.
DaCosta explained the reasons for her move:
"If you are remaining in your comfort zone for too long, you are not really challenging yourself to get better. I've always believed in that. When I made the decision to go to Liverpool originally, I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone; things were working out so well over there, I didn't want to leave my team [as] they had become my family. We had the end to a great season and participating in Champions League was something I wanted to do for a very long time .I've done everything I could in terms of my performance in Liverpool; I've grown a lot as a player, had a great two seasons there and gotten better."
She had been following the professional game development in the States over the past few years: "I've watched the progress of NWSL. It seemed right and I was ready for a new challenge again, a new chance to grow as a person, grow as a player. It happened very quickly with the Spirit and just fell into place. Mark Parsons and I were on the same page in our beliefs in the game; it was a perfect place for me to end up and definitely came at the right time .I'm excited to work with him."
DaCosta was on the list of the Spirit's discovery players that they could negotiate with exclusively.
The Spirit is definitely poised to challenge for a championship in 2015. After a disastrous first season when the Spirit finished last among the eight teams on a 3-5-14 record for only 14 points, Mark Parsons was named permanent head coach after stepping up from the successful W-League Spirit reserve side in midseason. Under the astute Parsons-formerly with Chelsea Ladies Reserves, the Spirit improved to fourth in 2014 with a 10-5-9 record, bringing in strong new starters such as defender Crystal Dunn (the number one pick in the 2014 College Draft and a U.S international), experienced forward Jodie Taylor (who now has a chance to make the World Cup team after time spent playing in England, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the U.S.), German international midfielder Kerstin Garefrekes (a Women's World Cup champion) and American midfielder Christine Nairn (who was acquired from Seattle Reign after the 2013 season, had a fantastic winter with Melbourne Victory and has made a few appearances for the U.S. full team but is expected to be a mainstay in the future).
Washington's turnaround season came to an end in Seattle in a 2-1 defeat to the Reign. Along with DaCosta, Parsons is bringing in Welsh international forward Natasha Harding from Bristol Academy for this season along with Mexican international defender Arianna Romero (from Houston Dash) and Mexican international defender Arianna Romero (ex-Houston Dash and University of Nebraska) and Argentinian international forward Estefania Banini (from Chilean powerhouse Colo Colo). Garefrekes is not expected to return while Taylor meanwhile was traded this month to the Portland Timbers, headed by Paul Riley, another British native.
DaCosta has Portuguese heritage and actually carries a Portuguese passport, which allowed her to play in England as a European Union citizen, rather than taking a valuable import spot. In spite of her dual citizenship, DaCosta is committed to the U.S. National Team, which she played for at the youth level (from U-15 to U-23). Part of her rationale to come back to the U.S. was the prospect to play at the national team level: "If you want to play for the U.S. you need to be seen in the U.S."
When asked her final thoughts on her time in the FA WSL, DaCosta was very positive about the league's future.
"The FA WSL has a bright future and in my two years have seen a tremendous amount of growth and they have done things well .[I have] seen growth in terms of media, fan support, having backing from television, sponsorship, mens' teams supporting; everything speaks loudly for the people involved with the league." She felt that starting FA WSL2-begun last season-adds to the competition level of the league. Relegating the bottom team in WSL1 helps a team "who doesn't perform to right yourself."
It will be interesting to see if Amanda DaCosta can help to inspire her new team, the Washington Spirit, to the 2015 NWSL title, which would be her third in three years.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey