Ali KriegerChristine NairnMegan Oyster

Ali Krieger, Oyster, Nairn traded

Washington Spirit fans have had a lot to deal with this offseason. It started with Ali Krieger being traded for pennies on the dollar. Then Christine Nairn and Megan Oyster were shipped off for more reasonable returns.

With each trade, the Follow Your Spirit team talked about the outcomes and the implications, hoping to glean some perspective and hope.

We welcome our new Spirit players with open arms, but we’re definitely sad to see our beloved Ali, Nairn, and Oyster go. Check out the three episodes we did covering these trades:

Ali Krieger (originally aired Nov 4)

Christine Nairn (originally aired Nov Nov 15)

Megan Oyster (originally aired Nov 23)

Feature photo credit: Kelley Piper Photos

Ali KriegerAlyssa KleinerCaprice DydascoChristine NairnCrystal DunnDiana MathesonGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKelsey WysTori Huster

The curse of DC sports teams continued Sunday evening as the Washington Spirit fell to the Western New York Flash on penalty kicks in the NWSL Championship game in Houston, Texas.

For the third time this season, the Spirit and Flash were set to clash, this time for the league crown. Both teams scored early in the first half, but no additional goals in regulation sent the game to extra time. A goal from Crystal Dunn just a minute into extra time looked like a sure winner. WNY would not go down without a fight however, and scored the equalizer in the fourth minute of added time in the second half of extra time. In penalty kicks, Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo stopped three of the Spirit’s five penalty kicks to lead the Flash to its first ever NWSL Championship.

All started well for the Spirit when defender Megan Oyster played a ball into the box just nine minutes into the match. D’Angelo came out to try and collect the ball, but missed allowing the ball to fall to Dunn. Dunn rounded the goalkeeper and deposited the ball into the net to open the scoring for the Spirit. The Flash would respond in the 14th minute with a goal from the top of the box from midfielder Samantha Mewis.

The Spirit were forced to make an early sub as defender Alyssa Kleiner replaced defender Caprice Dydasco. Dydasco went down in the 22nd minute with what is being listed as a left knee injury. With only three subs for the game, the move put the Spirit in a pinch. Kleiner came into the match and immediately made an impact, gaining praise from head coach Jim Gabarra during the post game press conference.

“Having to sub a flank player early on was not something we anticipated,” Gabarra said. “I thought Kleiner did a great job in there on the flank, that’s why she’s here. It really tied our hands, especially looking at without a lead going into overtime and possibly facing penalties, Stengel is one of our top five for penalties.”

Just one minute into extra time, Dunn would grab her second goal of the game, putting the Spirit up 2-1. The Spirit had the championship trophy in its grasp with under a minute remaining in the match. In the fourth minute of added time in extra time, Flash forward and Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams got on the end of a cross from Jessica McDonald. Williams out jumped two Spirit defenders to head the ball over Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys.

“I think as competitors, we always know the game situation, we’re up a goal, we’re down a goal, roughly how much time is left,” midfielder Christine Nairn said. “In that last play, I just remember it coming off of I think Jess McDonald’s foot and I jumped for all it was worth and there was a collision between me, Lynn Williams and Kleiner. Then the crowd went wild, so it happened all so fast.”

Headed to penalties, WNY seemed to have all of the momentum. Wys was able to stop one Flash attempt and force McDonald to hit one well over the crossbar. D’Angelo was equal to the task, stopping shots from the three original Spirit players in Ali Krieger, Tori Huster and Diana Matheson. The Flash would eventually win 3-2 (3-2 on PKs), securing its first ever NWSL Championship.

“We had been good at penalties and our two best penalty kick takers, they get saved,” Gabarra said. “I thought Kelsey was a little bit unfortunate not to get one, I mean two she gets her hand on. It’s a funny game, it’s a brutal way to decide games. It’s not a loss in my opinion, they advanced on penalties.”

Despite the game being in Houston, a large contingent of Spirit supporters, including members of the Spirit Squadron, made the trip down to cheer on their team, bringing energy to BBVA Compass Stadium.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without the Spirit Squadron,” Nairn said. “They surprised us by being out in that corner, and we hear that drum, them screaming. We walked over there and our hearts break just as much as theirs. They’re just as much a part of this team as we are. Like I said, we are here because of them. Thanks for them and everything they do. They do more for us than they know.”

Photo Credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)

Ali KriegerChristine NairnDiana MathesonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageKelsey WysShelina Zadorsky

For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Spirit will be playing for the NWSL championship.

The Spirit beat the visiting Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in overtime in front of 4,249 at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Friday night. A goal from defender Ali Krieger opened the scoring for the Spirit, and with just under 10 minutes remaining in the overtime period, forward Francisca Ordega sealed the deal for Washington.

“We’ve wanted this for the past four seasons, and I think we deserved it all season,” Krieger said. “We’ve played so great. Obviously it was a team win, towards the end you could see that with the goals we scored, it was involving the entire team.”

Starting XI: Wys; Krieger ©, Church, Zadorsky, Dydasco; Nairn, Lohman, Huster; Banini, Ordega, Dunn
Starting XI: Wys; Krieger ©, Church, Zadorsky, Dydasco; Nairn, Lohman, Huster; Banini, Ordega, Dunn

Washington controlled the play from the start, but as halftime drew closer, had nothing to show for it. A corner kick from Krieger was played away by Red Stars defender Julie Johnston, but the ball was played right to Spirit defender Shelina Zadorsky. Zadorsky played a ball back into the box with her left foot, finding Krieger’s head at the back post for the goal in the 36th minute.

“I saw time and space and I knew we had a lot of runners in the box,” Zadorsky said. “I had thought maybe swing it in with my right foot, but I’m a little more confident with my left, so I took a touch back and tried to curl it into a dangerous space. Then all the credit to Ali for an incredible goal.”

Chicago would get a goal back in the 80th minute to tie the game up. Defender Casey Short played a ball over the Spirit backline and right onto the foot of on running forward Christen Press. The drama continued in stoppage time as Press beat Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, but hit the crossbar, sending the game into extra time.

“I was just hoping that my teammates, my center backs and everyone else were covering for me as they should,” Wys said. “I did what I could to put her off and then the soccer gods were with us, that was what I was thinking as soon as that hit the post. I was like they are with us tonight.”

Both teams traded chances in the opening half of extra time, but it wouldn’t be until the 111th minute that either team was able to break through. Combination play between midfielders Christine Nairn and Diana Matheson set up the Spirit in the box. Nairn sent the ball across the face of goal to a streaking Ordega at the back post. Ordega was able to just get a piece of it, directing it past Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

“I think I was just right there at the right time because when I saw how good the ball was like, ok let me just go in case the ball bounce back,” Ordega said. “I wasn’t expecting the ball at that spot, but it came out to be a successful goal.”

Ordega scores the game winning goal past Naeher.
Ordega scores the game winning goal past Naeher.

In its first ever home playoff game, the Spirit qualified to play in its first NWSL Final. After finishing in last place in year one, four years later, the Spirit will play either the Portland Thorns or WNY Flash for the league crown.

“It’s super rewarding because I remember that first season where we didn’t have the best opportunities and maybe we didn’t have the best season at all,” Krieger said. “Working off of that, building a team, building this core group that we’ve had, it’s a really incredible feeling to come that far and to see this team grow into what it is now. I’m just really proud of where we’ve come and now where we are headed. This game’s over now, we have to focus on the final.”

The Spirit will find out on Sunday which team it will face in the Final. The NWSL Championship will be played at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 5 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos

Ali KriegerAlyssa KleinerDiana MathesonGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKelsey Wys

Memorial Stadium in Seattle has never been kind to the Washington Spirit. In six games there in three years, the Spirit have yet to register a win. Saturday’s game vs. the Seattle Reign didn’t change that narrative. The Spirit fell behind early in the game and found no improvement in the second half. The opportunity for the Spirit to clinch the NWSL Shield will have to wait another day as the Reign defeated the Spirit 2-0 to keep Seattle’s slim playoff hopes alive.

Seattle took a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute with a goal from forward Beverly Yanez. Forward Megan Rapinoe drove down the left side, beating Spirit defender Ali Krieger, to drive in a cross. Yanez was able to slip past the Spirit defense and tap in the cross to give the home team the much needed lead.

The Reign would double its lead in the 78th minute when midfielder Keelin Winters rocketed home a shot past an outstretched Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys. The goal was an extra special one for the Reign captain as she was playing in her final home game after announcing she would retire at the end of the season.

Winters (right) played in her final home game on Saturday night. After soccer, Winters plans on joining the Kirkland Fire Department.
Winters (right) played in her final home game on Sunday night. After soccer, Winters plans on joining the Kirkland Fire Department.

Washington had chances of its own in both halves, but stellar team defending from the Reign shutout the Spirit for just the third time this season. The best chance for the Spirit in the first half came in the 41st minute. After midfielder Joanna Lohman took the initial shot, all chaos broke out as multiple Spirit players attempted to put the ball in the back of the net. But the Reign defense would have none of it. A shot from defender Estelle Johnson in the 89th minute also pinballed around the box, but again, no goal for the Spirit.

Krieger was the only one of the Spirit’s five Olympians that started the game. Midfielder Diana Matheson would enter as a second half sub, coming on in the 76th minute for Lohman. Trying to get minutes for everyone heading into the playoffs, head coach Jim Gabarra put together yet another combination on the front line. Along with Katie Stengel and Franny Ordega, Alyssa Kleiner got her first start of the season at forward after briefly seeing time there as a sub. This was the 16th different combination Gabarra has put out at forward in 19 games this season.

Washington will hit the road one more time, heading to Chicago to wrap up regular season action against the playoff-bound Red Stars. The game will be played on Sep. 24, 2016 at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. on the east coast). The NWSL will be off this next upcoming week as the USWNT hosts Thailand on Sep. 15, 2016 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2) and the Netherlands on Sep. 18, 2016 (7 p.m. ET on FS1).

Photo Credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos

Ali KriegerCheyna WilliamsChristine NairnGame Day Coverage

More than two months after the original game was set to be played, the Houston Dash and Washington Spirit faced off on Thursday night for the second time this season. Two goals courtesy of Christine Nairn helped the Spirit walk away with the 2-1 victory and sole possession of first place in the NWSL.

Nairn would open the scoring in the 30th minute on a penalty kick for her first goal of the 2016 season. The penalty kick was awarded after Houston defender Cari Roccaro took down Spirit forward Cheyna Williams in the box. Nairn returned to the field to take the kick after being briefly sidelined due to an injury. The injury to Nairn’s shoulder occurred just minutes earlier when she was tangled up with Dash defender Ellie Brush. Although appearing to favor the shoulder, the injury did not prevent Nairn from completing the match.

Early in the second half, Nairn would double the lead, and her season goal total, in the 63rd minute. The midfielder picked up a ball near the center circle and quickly hit a chip shot over Dash goalkeeper Bianca Henninger, who was caught off her line.

In the 90th minute, Houston captain Kealia Ohai put home a cross from Stephanie Ochs, dashing the Spirit’s hope of walking away with its eighth shutout of the season. The goal would come too late for the Dash as they fell for the eighth time this season.

The Spirit buoyed by the return of captain Ali Krieger. Despite arriving from the Rio Olympics just days prior, Krieger was in the starting XI for the Spirit on Thursday night. Crystal Dunn was not available for the match, while the Canadian internationals, goalkeeper Steph Labbé, defender Shelina Zadorsky and midfielder Diana Matheson, will return from the Rio Olympics with the bronze medal. On another roster note, Megan Oyster ended her 34 games played streak. Oyster had started, in every game since being drafted in 2015.

The next match for the Spirit will be on Friday, August 26th, 2016 in Orlando. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. This game will be the second meeting between the two clubs, with the Spirit being victorious in the previous meeting. The Spirit will return to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, September 3rd, 2016 to face the WNY Flash in the second-to-last home game of the season.

photo by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos

Ali KriegerChristine NairnCrystal DunnGame Day CoverageJoanna LohmanStephanie Labbe

After winning the first two road contests of the year, the Washington Spirit’s undefeated season came crashing down at the hands of the Portland Thorns. The road woes for the Spirit had made their way to the 2016 season. While the Spirit was able to get a goal onto the board in the second half, strong first half play from the Thorns, and lackluster defending from the Spirit, led to a 4-1 win for the Thorns.

Joanna Lohman scored the loan goal for the visitors, bringing her season total to three. She is among five other players, including Diana Matheson, who lead the league in goals. Her header off of a Crystal Dunn cross in the 55th minute gave the Spirit life, but it did not help stop the strong Portland attack.

Portland’s first goal started off of a Tobin Heath corner kick in the 26th minute. Heath curled a right footed cross into the box, and poor marking from Spirit defender Ali Krieger allowed Lindsey Horan to run onto the corner and into the goal.

Just six minutes later, another mistake by the defense would once again hurt the defense. After a ball came into the box, Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé attempted to clear the ball from the attack. A miscue between Labbé and defender Alyssa Kleiner would result in Labbé’s clear bouncing off of Kleiner for an own goal.

The defensive problems went from bad to worse, as Tobin Heath picked up a mistake by Megan Oyster to go in one-on-one with Labbé. Heath chipped Labbé to give the home team a 3-0 lead heading into the break.

The second half was a better defensive half for the Spirit, but it was a little too late. Despite being down two, and then three goals throughout the second half, the Spirit showed a sense of urgency that was lacking in the first half. A goal by sub Meg Morris put the nail in the coffin for the Spirit with 12 minutes remaining in the game.

The game was another physical one, which was to be expected after the 0-0 draw that saw five yellow cards given back in Maryland. Two weeks later, the physicality was matched, with five yellows doled out on Saturday evening. Christine Nairn picked up the only yellow for the Spirit after getting tangled up with Thorns forward Nadia Nadim.

It will be interesting to see how the Spirit responds next week, as the squad has yet to drop points in two straight matches. The biggest question mark is how will the defense bounce back next week against a team they have already held scoreless this season in the Houston Dash. Another thing to watch out for is how the team lineup. Jim Gabarra has not named the same starting XI for two games in a row all season.

The Spirit will travel to Houston to take on the Dash. Kickoff for the Friday night matchup will be 8:30 EST.

Ali KriegerDiana MathesonJim Gabarra

Goals from Ali Krieger and Diana Matheson lead the Washington Spirit (2-0-0) to its second win, defeating Sky Blue (1-1-0) 2-1.

For the first 40 minutes of the game, the game was mainly played in the midfield. Krieger put the visitors ahead in the 40th minute off of what looked to be in between a cross and a shot. The ball sailed over Sky Blue goalkeeper Caroline Casey and into the back of the net, just inside the far post. The goal marked Krieger’s first goal since May 3rd of  2014.

After the break, Canadian international Diana Matheson received a through ball into the box from Crystal Dunn and deposited it between the legs of Casey. The goal doubled the Spirit’s lead and put them in full control of the game.

Ten minutes later, Sky Blue forward Maya Hayes got the home team back within one, but the Spirit defense held strong to close out the game.

“It was important for our momentum to get a win on the road,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “The team did a really good job of coming out with a lot more energy and motivation the second half. It’s good for our first road game of the year, especially in a place where we have to come to twice. It’s good psychologically for us to continue the momentum that we started at the home opener.”

In Gabarra’s return to Yursak Field, Washington was able to grab three points to move into first place in the NWSL standings. The Spirit will now travel to Rochester, NY to take on the WNY Flash (1-1-0). The Flash will be coming off a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars. Kick off for the game will be Friday at 7 p.m. For tickets, visit the Washington Spirit website.

Ali KriegerCali FarquharsonChristine NairnCrystal DunnKatie StengelPodcast

Today’s podcast takes a look back a the Spirit’s win over the Boston Breakers and looks forward to their game on the road at Sky Blue.

Listen in for sound bites from Joanna Lohman, Crystal Dunn, Ali Krieger, Cali Farquharson, and Christine Nairn.

Also, we get a chance to meet Katie Stengel and learn about her more as a player and as a person.

Intro music from our very own Spirit Squadron.

Ali KriegerCrystal Dunn

I crossed off a big item on my bucket list a couple years ago. For more than a decade, I had always wanted to be a season ticket holder for a sports team.   Moving to D.C. made that possible with so many sports teams near by. I was a season ticket holder for the Washington Wizards.

You’ve probably noticed all the tweets and emails coming from the Washington Spirit about season tickets. Many of you may be considering it. Some of you may be wondering if it is worth it. This short post is meant to give you some insight along with some encouragement. I’ll compare the Spirit to other Washington teams to display the value this smaller sport has for its fans and other benefits that come along with it.

Disclaimer: I am not officially affiliated with the Washington Spirit and they did not commission me to write this post. I love being a sports fan and want to pass on my knowledge.

It’s only a 10 game commitment

When it comes to the time commitment, the Spirit’s 10 game commitment is the easiest to handle in DC sports. DC United has a manageable 15 games, Wizards have a stretch of 40 home games, and Baseball season is too long with too many games (82 home games). There is one stretch of four home games, otherwise the Spirit’s schedule is evenly spread out.

It is SO much cheaper than other sports

Even if you could care less about the other Washington teams, it is important to understand the value in this sport when compared to the rest. The VIP Midfield price is $390 per seat for the season. Staying in the sport, DC United tickets are about double that for midfield seating. Similar seating for the Wizards would cost you at least $2,000 per seat. I’m not even going to bother looking up Redskins prices since the NFL is so inflated.

Watch the entire league play

The NWSL is small, which means each team hosts the other nine teams at least once. Spirit will host Sky Blue twice. Having season tickets allows you the opportunity to watch all of your favorite NWSL players right here at the Maryland Soccer Plex – unless they’re off playing with their country, of course.

Access to the players

A season ticket membership includes members-only events that provide access to players. The Spirit’s smaller fan base allows fans easier access to their favorite players. Spirit players usually are interact with fans in some fashion after the games.

Be a part of a championship year

The NWSL will have a lot of good competition this year, but Coach Gabarra is setting this team up for success. 2016 has the potential to be a championship year for the Washington Spirit. Being a season ticket holder puts you in front of the action for each step of the way.

Sure, you can buy your tickets as you go, but season tickets are more price efficient per game and it puts you deeper into the community of Spirit fans.

I’ll be at every game. You should be, too.

Click the image below to shop your seats

2016-Season-Ticket-Pricing

Ali KriegerChristine NairnCrystal DunnJim GabarraPlayer InterviewsPodcastPreaseason

williams-penn-stateb

Week 2 of the preseason is in the books. Washington Spirit beat Penn State 2-0.

This week’s podcast provides a quick recap of the game, some analysis of the team thus far, interviews from players and coaches, and a segment with Caitlin Buckley from Black and Red United.

Player interview include:

  • Crystal Dunn
  • Ali Krieger
  • Christine Nairn
  • Coach Jim Gabarra

Caitlin and I talk about some of the things that stand out to us so far. We also go over a few “bold predictions” we have for the season. Mine are:

  • Nairn will get double digit goals this season
  • … or Katie Stengel
  • Spirit will sweep Sky Blue
  • A Washington player will top the league in assists this season (and it might by Dunn)
  • Crystal Dunn will not be the team’s lead scorer

Enjoy! Follow us on Twitter @SpiritCoverage and follow my guest @CaitlinBuckley2. #FollowYourSpirit