The Washington Spirit on Tuesday announced Jonatan Giráldez as its next coach, ending a three-month search and bringing one of the top names in global women’s soccer to the NWSL.
Giráldez, 32, is in his third season as coach of Barcelona, which has won four consecutive Spanish league titles and claimed last year’s UEFA Champions League crown. The Washington Post reported last week that Giráldez was the Spirit’s top candidate.
The Spaniard will take over the Spirit at the end of Barcelona’s season. Barcelona is among the favorites to reach the Champions League final May 25 and is the leader in Spain’s Liga F, which concludes its season June 16.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to lead the team and become part of the Washington Spirit family. It’s a great honor and a greater responsibility to help bring the club to the next level so I will dedicate my heart and soul to make everyone around the team proud and part of something great,” Giráldez said in a news release. “I really want to thank [Spirit owner Y. Michele Kang] and [General Manager Mark Krikorian] for the opportunity my family and myself have been given. I will be looking forward to meeting the staff, players and fans in DC soon.”
The Spirit said it will soon name an interim coach.
“Jona’s combined experience in the developmental youth sections and at the highest level of professional play make him the ideal head coach to help us achieve our vision,” Krikorian said. “Jona knows how to develop players into champions. He will bring a beautiful style of play to the Spirit that we know our fans will enjoy.”
Washington had been without a coach since October, when Mark Parsons was fired after the club missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Giráldez will be the Spirit’s fourth full-time coach in four years.
In the past 2½ seasons, Barcelona has been a force in Europe, compiling a 71-1-1 record in Spain and reaching two Champions League finals. After starting his career in Spanish youth academies, Giráldez began at Barcelona as an assistant in 2019 and became head coach in 2021. He is one of three finalists for FIFA’s 2023 coach of the year award, alongside England’s Sarina Wiegman and Chelsea’s Emma Hayes, the new leader of the U.S. women’s national team.
Giráldez announced last month that he would depart Barcelona after this season for a club outside of Europe. The length and financial terms of his contract with the Spirit were not immediately disclosed.
“We conducted an extensive global, data-driven search and found that Jona is the best choice to lead our players,” Kang said. “His commitment to excellence and high-performance is second to none and the results speak for themselves including consecutive La Liga and Supercopa titles and multiple top coach honors. We are grateful for his decision to join us. He will help take the Spirit to the next level for both players and fans.”
The Spirit went 7-6-9 and finished eighth in the league last season. The club has the majority of its roster — including U.S. stars Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, Ashley Hatch and Andi Sullivan — under contract for the upcoming season. Defender-midfielder Dorian Bailey was traded to Bay FC before last month’s NWSL expansion draft and defender Tori Huster, who had been with the Spirit since its 2013 inception, announced her retirement Dec. 31.
Washington has two first-round picks in Friday’s NWSL draft. The regular season begins March 16. The NWSL has yet to announce its full schedule, but the slate will include a summer break from league play (July 8 to Aug. 18) for a FIFA window and the Paris Olympics.