Alyssa KleinerCali FarquharsonEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKassey KallmanStephanie Labbe

On Saturday afternoon, the league-leading North Carolina Courage played host to the visiting Washington Spirit. The Courage came away with all three points in a 2-0 victory in front of 3530 fans at the WakeMed Soccer Park.

After the first 10 minutes of the match, the Washington Spirit took control of the game. The Spirit’s backline of Estelle Johnson, Shelina Zadorsky, Kassey Kallman and Caprice Dydasco was able to limit the strong attack of the Courage to just one shot on goal in the first half. However, to start the second half, Estelle Johnson was replaced by Alyssa Kleiner because of an illness.

“She felt sick to her stomach, like she was going to throw up,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “It was probably 20 minutes in. We checked her at the water break and wanted to get her through halftime. At halftime, we didn’t want to put her out there in a depleted situation where she was dehydrated and didn’t feel good.”

When the second half kicked off, the Courage came out fired up. Within the first minute, the ball was played out wide to Kristen Hamilton. Hamilton played the ball across the box and after multiple missed clearances by the Washington defense, forward Ashley Hatch slotted her shot past Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to give the Courage a 1-0 lead.

“The first one was right off the kickoff. It felt like they were dribbling and the seas kind of opened. No one was really stepping to put pressure on it and we were a bit passive and on our heels a bit on that,” Labbé said. “It’s just a quick reminder that coming out in the second half, just because the first half went well, you have to put in the hard work at the beginning of the second half to make sure you’re up at that level again.”

In the 84th minute, the Spirit put themselves in an even deeper hole with an own goal. North Carolina’s Sam Mewis played in a corner kick that bounced around in the box with multiple failed clearances by the Spirit. A clearance off the line from Cali Farquharson deflected off the face of Kallman before finding the back of the net.

Prior to the game, the Spirit announced that midfielder Kristie Mewis would be unavailable for the match because of an upcoming trade. It appears as if the trade will be announced on Monday.

“We’re in a situation where we have some extra depth and if we can get some good value for players maybe moving to a team that’s got something to play for to get into the playoffs and get a piece or a draft pick for the future that’s going to help us next year,” Gabarra said after the game. “Yeah, we’re not giving up on this year and looking towards next year but at the same time, you have to take advantage of the assets you have and if someone is interested in a player and they come to us, we’re going to consider it.”

Washington returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, August 26 to take on the Chicago Red Stars. For that match, Francisca Ordega and Kelsey Wys could be off the 45-day disabled list, according to Gabarra. Kickoff for the match is 7 p.m.

Alyssa KleinerPlayer Previews

As the 2017 NWSL season approaches, we will be rolling out profiles on the 2017 Washington Spirit roster.

Name: Alyssa Kleiner

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Position: Defense

College: Santa Clara University

Kleiner prior to the match vs. Houston on May 14, 2016.
Photo courtesy: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)

Last season: In 2016, Alyssa Kleiner played in 17 games, starting in 12 of those matches. Kleiner spent a majority of the season on the backline at left back but came in late to a few games at forward to hold onto a lead. She scored one goal in 2016 on July 31 against Sky Blue. Kleiner played in the NWSL Championship game after Caprice Dydasco tore her ACL early in the first half.

2017 season: Because of the injury to Dydasco, Kleiner will be one of the top candidates to fill in at the left back. Kleiner and Dydasco fought for the position throughout the first half of the 2016 season. With the timetable for Dydasco’s return still unknown, it is likely that Kleiner starts at left back alongside Shelina Zadorsky.

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 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

Alyssa Kleiner

Alyssa Kleiner

It’s been a while but we’re back! This week featuring Washington Spirit defender Alyssa Kleiner.

Spirit are coming off a 1-1 draw against Western New York. Wednesday night and Sunday night are both against their nemesis, Seattle Reign.

This interview with Alyssa was recorded about two weeks ago, so some of the questions are set for the end of the Olympic break (Just an FYI, so you have context).

Enjoy my conversation with Alyssa Kleiner and be sure to follow us on Twitter @SpiritCoverage.

Alyssa Kleiner
Photo by Kelley V Piper