After nine months of waiting, Washington Spirit fans finally saw their team win at the Maryland SoccerPlex. In the home opener, the Spirit (1-1-0) took down the visiting Orlando Pride (0-1-1) 2-0.
It was all even at zero before Mallory Pugh broke the scoring in the 80th minute. Just eight minutes later, Ashley Hatch sealed the victory with her first goal as a member of the Washington Spirit. Aubrey Bledsoe picked up her first win and shutout in her Spirit home debut.
Defense Stands Strong
With Rebecca Quinn getting her visa issues worked out, it appeared as if she would slide into the backline to replace Whitney Church. Instead, head coach Jim Gabarra put her in the midfield, leaving the backline intact from last weekend.
After struggling to contain Megan Rapinoe and the offense of the Seattle Reign in the opener, Washington did a much better job this week of sealing those holes and not allowing much through. This led to goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe making four stops in route to a clean sheet.
“Well, I was really happy with the whole backline and the whole group in its entirety,” Gabarra said. “I think they grew into the game and they got better and started forging some of those relationships. Most importantly I think we weren’t giving up a tremendous number of chances so that’s always pleasing.”
Spirit Offense Steps Up Late
In the 80th minute, Mallory Pugh burst past the backline of Orlando before slotting the ball home through the legs of Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Just eight minutes later, Ashley Hatch scored her first goal for the Spirit. Both ended up being huge goals in picking up three points for the Spirit.
The Spirit racked up three shots on goal, all coming in the second half. The first half was full of opportunities, but the final pass was just off in most situations. That all changed when Pugh picked up the ball just over half field. She outran Krieger, twisted Shelina Zadorsky around, and ended up beating Harris with a low ground ball. Hatch’s goal was a combination of a lot of hard work from Mallory Eubanks, Meggie Dougherty Howard, and Pugh. That now is three goals in two games for Washington.
“I think I just saw that I had time and space,” Pugh said. “Estelle always says to shoot the ball. So yeah, I just took my opportunity. I wanted to keep it low and thankful it went in.”
“You know, Jo just kind of laid it off perfectly,” Hatch said. “I saw an open goal so I just tried to hit it as hard as I can so it went in.”
Tori Huster Honored in Pre-Game
Prior to the game, midfielder Tori Huster was honored with a commemorative jersey for reaching the 100 caps mark. The jersey was presented to Huster by Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch. Huster reached the milestone game against the Seattle Reign last weekend. She is the only remaining player on the roster from the inaugural season of the Spirit.
The NWSL will now go on a break with a FIFA break approaching. The United States National Team will be in action on Thursday, April 5 and Sunday, April 8 when they take on Mexico.
Following the completion of the FIFA break, the Spirit will return home to the Maryland SoccerPlex to take on the North Carolina Courage. The Spirit will host the Courage on April 14 with kickoff coming at 7 p.m.