Washington Spirit signs Colombian midfielder, Women’s World Cup star Leicy Santos

Colombia's Leicy Santos celebrates after she scored the opening goal during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between England and Colombia at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)(AP/Mark Baker)

The Washington Spirit have signed a Women’s World Cup standout that hopes to bring flair to its refreshed roster starting this summer.

Colombian midfielder Leicy Santos signed a three-year deal with D.C.’s NWSL club on Tuesday. She will join the Spirit from Spanish side Atlético Madrid in June after the end of the Liga F season. In a statement, Santos said called the Spirit “pioneers in the women’s game” and added she hopes to add more to the club’s legacy.

“I’m so excited to be starting a new journey in a new league with the Washington Spirit,” Santos said in a statement.

Santos — originally from San Sebastián within the town of Lorica, Colombia — gained international attention for her exploits during Las Cafeteras’ run to the quarterfinals of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. She scored a stunning crossing goal during Colombia’s match against the eventual runner-up England that was considered one of the tournament’s best goals.

The 27-year-old is known as an elite passer and attacker, floating between roles in the midfield and the wings. In her sixth season for Atlético Madrid, she has 17 goals and 16 assists this year. Last season, she led her team past crosstown rival Real Madrid to a comeback victory in the finals of the Copa de la Reina tournament.

“Bringing Leicy to the Spirit is an important step in taking this team forward,” Washington head coach Jonatan Giráldez said in a statement. “She is relentless in the attacking third and can create opportunities at will with her passing. We are thrilled to have her.”

The first hint of Santos’ signing came during Washington’s First Look preseason event on March 11. General manager Mark Krikorian told WTOP the club was planning to announce a signing “sometime soon,” and when pressed further, he said the player was “not from the U.S.”

Following the signing, Kirkorian called Santos a “phenomenal addition” for Washington.

“Her technical abilities on the pitch are world-class and she has provided a winning edge to her teams at all levels,” he said in a statement. “Having her join our already impressive roster is going to make the Spirit an even more intimidating opponent in the NWSL.”

The addition of Santos is the latest move after a busy offseason by Washington, who signed two free agents (forward Brittany Ratcliffe and U.S. women’s national team defender Casey Krueger) and signed six players during the NWSL Draft.

The Spirit opened its 2024 season with two victories in its first three matches while assistant coach Adrián González manages the squad on an interim basis. Giráldez, who was hired in January from Spain’s side FC Barcelona Femení, plans to join Washington sometime in June.

Online sports outlet The Athletic first reported Washington’s plans to sign Santos.

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José Umaña

José Umaña is a digital editor for WTOP. He’s been working as a journalist for almost a decade, covering local news, education and sports. His work has appeared in The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Montgomery Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, PressBox and The Diamondback.

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