Zadorsky fo­cused on lead­ing Spirit to NWSL ti­tle

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY THOMAS FLOYD

She­lina Zadorsky was a “very spir­ited child.” That’s how her mother de­scribed her, at least.

Grow­ing up in the On­tario city of Lon­don, squared half­way be­tween Toronto and Detroit, Zadorsky ra­di­ated en­ergy. Nur­tur­ing a fond­ness for the out­doors, she quickly grav­i­tated to­ward soc­cer. By 7 years old, she was hold­ing her own and then some on an all-boys team.

“It didn’t faze me, and I fit right in be­cause I had short hair,” Zadorsky re­called. “I was pretty ac­tive, and I loved to be run­ning around. I didn’t care if I was muddy — I just wanted to win and be first and have that ball at my feet.”

Now 24 years old, Zadorsky has seen her wan­der­lust and pas­sion for the sport take her around the globe. In 2008, the de­fender rep­re­sented Canada at the Un­der-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand. Four years later, she trav­eled to Ja­pan for the U-20 edi­tion.

Zadorsky earned her first ap­pear­ance for the full na­tional team in Jan­uary 2013. Af­ter con­clud­ing her se­nior sea­son at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan that fall, she ven­tured to Aus­tralia to sign her first pro­fes­sional con­tract and, as she put it, “grow up a lit­tle too.” A stint in the tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient Swedish league fol­lowed a year later.

It was 14 months ago that Zadorsky re­turned to North Amer­ica, sign­ing with the Wash­ing­ton Spirit of the NWSL. Of­fer­ing a steady de­fen­sive pres­ence and calm­ing in­flu­ence on the ball, she seized a start­ing spot at cen­ter back from day one.

Although Zadorsky only played 13 of 22 matches as Wash­ing­ton ad­vanced to the NWSL Cham­pi­onship, her ab­sences came with good rea­son. Estab­lish­ing her­self as a na­tional team reg­u­lar with Canada, she booked a ticket to the Sum­mer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and walked away with a bronze medal.

Af­ter the jug­gling act of 2016, Zadorsky is look­ing for­ward to a more fo­cused sec­ond sea­son as the Spirit open the NWSL cam­paign against the North Carolina Courage on Satur­day at the Mary­land Soc­cerPlex in Boyds.

“Last year was tough com­ing in and out a lot, though I’m ob­vi­ously grate­ful for all of that,” Zadorsky said. “I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to putting all of my fo­cus into the Spirit and re­ally tak­ing this team back to a cham­pi­onship.”

Af­ter a break­out de­but sea­son in Wash­ing­ton, Zadorsky will be leaned on more heav­ily in 2017. Long­time cap­tain Ali Krieger and 2015 NWSL MVP Crys­tal Dunn — both U.S. na­tional team stand­outs — have left the club. Key con­trib­u­tors Me­gan Oys­ter, Chris­tine Nairn, Este­fa­nia Banini and Diana Matheson are gone as well.

Mid­field stal­warts Tori Huster and Joanna Lohman do re­main, and off­sea­son ac­qui­si­tion Kristie Mewis is ex­pected to serve as an of­fen­sive cat­a­lyst. But in wear­ing the cap­tain’s arm­band this pre­sea­son, Zadorsky has taken on an in­creased role for a club with a no­table va­cancy in the “face of the fran­chise” depart­ment.

“She’s one of those nat­u­ral lead­ers who just has it,” Spirit coach Jim Gabarra said. “It’s not some­thing she has to re­ally work at, even though she’ll tell you she’s got to work at it. Right from the first day of our off­sea­son she was ask­ing about things you can do off the field and lead­er­ship-wise, want­ing to make sure we were in good com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Lohman added: “She’s pretty in­tri­cate as a cen­ter back for our de­fense. That’s not to mean she’s any more im­por­tant than any player, but I think she’s go­ing to have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact this sea­son.”

This cam­paign marks the first time Zadorsky has found her­self pre­par­ing for a sec­ond year with the same pro­fes­sional club. While her ex­pe­ri­ences over­seas helped Zadorsky pol­ish her game on the field and ma­ture as a per­son off it, she feels at home with Wash­ing­ton.

For a player per­pet­u­ally on the move and a club in the depths of rein­ven­tion, that con­ti­nu­ity is a wel­come de­vel­op­ment.

“I’m def­i­nitely happy to be here and have that sta­bil­ity,” Zadorsky said. “This is my sec­ond year, I’m liv­ing in the same area, work­ing day in and day out with some of the same peo­ple. I think that’s re­ally awe­some to have that con­sis­tency.

“To play here for a club that is re­ally sup­port­ing you and want­ing you to suc­ceed, you can re­ally feel that. It’s just grow­ing into a fam­ily for me.”

TONY QUINN/WASH­ING­TON SPIRIT

She­lina Zadorsky played in just 13 of 22 matches as the Wash­ing­ton Spirit ad­vanced to the NWSL Cham­pi­onship last sea­son. Zadorsky was a mem­ber of the bronze medal-win­ning Cana­dian na­tional team in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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