Ashley HatchAubrey BledsoeFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageJim Gabarra

The Washington Spirit traveled to Orlando to take on the Pride in the final matchup between the two sides. In the previous two matches, the teams had split with one win a piece. The start of Saturday’s game would be delayed for nearly 40 minutes due to thunderstorms in the area.

When the game did get underway, the Spirit were under pressure early from Orlando. Just a few minutes into the match, Spirit forward Francisca Ordega and Orlando keeper Ashlyn Harris collided after going for a ball. Ordega would have to leave the match due to concussion protocol. This seemed to spark the Spirit a bit as they began to turn on the offense. In the 26th minute, forward Ashley Hatch scored her team-leading fourth goal of the year.

Pride forward Sydney Leroux would tie the game up just before the half and Marta scored in the 86th minute to win it for Orlando. The Spirit have now gone seven games without a win, picking up just two points in that stretch.

Ashley Hatch Breaks Scoreless Drought

After being shut out for 476 minutes, the Spirit finally found the back of the net. In the 26th minute, Ashley Hatch headed home Whitney Church’s corner kick. It took a load off the team’s back and nothing showed that more than goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe running more than half the field to join the team in celebration.

“It’s been a bit since we scored so just excited to get that first goal and to be up here in this stadium, against this team, it was just a lot of excitement,” Bledsoe said. “I wanted to be apart of the celebration so I made a break for it.”

Despite Early Sub, Spirit Kept Pressure Up

Often times this season, Washington has had the tendency to sit back and watch. This has resulted in lazy play and poor results. While at times they did revert to that style on Saturday evening, the front line especially put pressure on Orlando’s backline.

“No, it needs to change,” Gabarra said. “I got into them a bit at halftime in Chicago and they came out and played great in the second half. It was like why do we need to go down a goal or why do we need to start poorly. We need to start that way every game. I think it’s just something we talked about over the week and they executed it.”

The pressure came from Ashley Hatch, who was forced to play a different role early with Francisca Ordega being subbed out. After Hatch scored her goal, she was like a bull in a china shop.

“For her individually, she got a lot of confidence by getting the goal and she was rewarded for all of, she does so much work off the ball,” Gabarra said. “I think it was just she looked more dangerous and more confident tonight. That’s hard to get out of an attacking player or a goal scorer when they’re not scoring goals because they naturally feel like they’re not doing their job.”

Aubrey Bledsoe Comes Up With Big Saves in Return to Orlando

During the offseason, the Washington Spirit traded defender Shelina Zadorsky to Orlando in exchange for goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. Saturday’s match was Bledsoe’s first in Orlando since joining the Spirit. In the loss, she made ten saves.

“It meant something more just coming back here,” Bledsoe said after the match. “I love Orlando, it will always be home to me. There are still a lot of people here that I care about. I had a lot of friends and family in the stands today. Even the Pride supporters, I know they are still rooting for me and want the best for me so that just means a lot. It’s great to be back and see old friends and just be a part of everything here.

Next Up

The Spirit have a quick turnaround as they travel to North Carolina to take on the Courage on Wednesday. Kickoff for the match is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Ashley HatchEstefania BaniniFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageGame Preview

The Washington Spirit return home to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday night to take on the Seattle Reign. Tonight is the unofficial Pride Night, hosted by the Spirit Squadron.

Kick-Off

7:00 PM ET on Saturday, June 16, 2018

Location

Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Rebecca Quinn, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Joanna Lohman, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Francisca Ordega, Ashley Hatch, Estefania Banini

Noteworthy

Rebecca Quinn, Francisca Ordega, Yanara Aedo, and Rose Lavelle have returned from international duty and will be available for selection on Saturday evening. With those players returning, Maddie Huster and Schuyler DeBree have been released.

Injuries

OUT: Whitney Church (excused absence), Mallory Eubanks (right ankle sprain), Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Mallory Pugh (right PCL sprain), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45), Havana Solaun (left knee chondral avulsion)

QUESTIONABLE: Kelsey Wys (right knee swelling)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Get the Offense Involved Early. With Francisca Ordega returning, the Spirit need to get here integrated back in early. Putting pressure on Seattle’s backline before the Reign score can really change the tempo of the match. Since Mallory Pugh is out, the frontline of Ordega, Estefania Banini, and Ashley hatch will need to come together quickly to avoid being shutout once again.

Stream

Go90

Twitter

Follow @spiritcoverage and @jols98 for game updates and to keep your timeline to date with our Washington Spirit coverage on Twitter.

Ashley HatchGame Day CoverageKelsey Wys

Five hours later than anticipated, the Washington Spirit hosted the Chicago Red Stars at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Chicago would walk away from the crazy Saturday afternoon turned late evening game with three points in a 2-0 victory.

Just as the National Anthem had finished playing and the players were getting ready for the pictures of the starting lineups, the horn sounded at the SoccerPlex, indicating lightning was detected in the area. As heavy storms rolled through, it was eventually determined that the game, originally scheduled for kick off at 3:50 p.m., would not be starting until 9:00 p.m.

Once the game got underway at its new time, the weather played a heavy hand in the match. The first goal scored by Chicago in the 25th minute was exactly the kind you would expect to see in a rainy, wet game like this one. The Red Stars’ Yuki Nagasato played a free kick in on goal and goalkeeper Kelsey Wys was unable to cleanly coral the ball before Sam Kerr found the back of the net.

“Obviously it’s pouring down rain, it’s hard to for any goalkeeper to hold a clean ball, especially one that’s being bent over a wall that I can’t see anything,” Wys said. “I should have just parried it away but my first priority was to keep it out of the back of the net. Then she followed it up and no one on our team was around.”

The Red Stars would double their lead in the 49th minute off of a well structured passing play in the box. Alyssa Mautz drove into the box before turning around and laying it off for a wide open Nagasato. Nagasato would then tuck it between Wys and the near post for the 2-0 lead.

Washington would be shut out for the fourth time this season. Ashley Hatch had the best chance of the game in stoppage time of the second half. Hatch made a nice run up the field but rookie goalkeeper Emily Boyd stood tall in her debut to earn the shutout.

“It’s hard to keep your concentration for a long time not having to do much,” Chicago head coach Rory Dames said. “I think that’s the sign of a good goalkeeper when you don’t have to do a lot and then you get called in late and she was able to come up big for us.”

The Spirit will be in action again on Friday night as they take on Sky Blue FC in New Jersey. Washington will be without the services of Rebecca Quinn and Franny Ordega who are representing their respective national teams in Canada and Nigeria. Kickoff for the Sky Blue match is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Ashley HatchAubrey BledsoeCaprice DydascoEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageJim GabarraMallory PughRebecca QuinnRose LavelleTaylor SmithWhitney Church

Last season, the Washington Spirit went 3-0 against Sky Blue FC. So with the Spirit desperately needing a win to help their season, a winless Sky Blue came to town. The Spirit turned in one of the better overall performances from the squad this season and picked up a 1-0 win on Wednesday night.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Bledsoe; Smith, Johnson, Church, Dydasco; Quinn, Sullivan, Banini; Pugh, Hatch, Ordega.

Both teams were unable to break the deadlock in the first half with each team having shots go off the woodwork. Coming out of the locker room, Spirit forward Ashley Hatch was firing on all cylinders. She would finally put one home in the 64th minute, proving to be the difference for Washington.

Defense Comes Up Big

In the past three games, the Spirit defense has allowed just two goals with one coming off of a free kick. Rebecca Quinn and Whitney Church’s partnership was proving to be a positive one and when Estelle Johnson came back into the lineup on Wednesday night for Quinn, the transition was seamless. Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe picked up her second shutout as a member of the Spirit in the 1-0 victory.

I think Aubrey has certainly stepped up in these past couple games and she hasn’t been making that one or two big mistakes that create a good chance or goal for the other team,” head coach Jim Gabarra said.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Aubrey Bledsoe was awarded the Spirit Squadron’s player of the match trophy following her shutout.

One of the biggest keys to the new found confidence of the backline was the decision to switch up which side the center backs were playing on. When Johnson was out because of injury, Quinn stepped in to play at center back. At that time, the Spirit played her at right center back alongside of Taylor Smith, while Church would be on the left with Caprice Dydasco. With Johnson returning, she slid into the right center back role to keep Church on the left.

“We wanted to put [Quinn] on the side with Taylor,” Gabarra said. “Then when we bring Estelle back in, you’re basically making two changes rather than one so we put Estelle [on the right side]. Estelle is more comfortable on the right anyways so it might stay that way. I think the important thing is the relationship between Whit and Estelle is very good and [Quinn] and Estelle have a good relationship with Taylor and Estelle and Whit have  a good relationship with [Dydasco]. Then that translates up to Tori and [Quinn] or Andi in the six role.”

Andi Sullivan Picks Up First Career Point

Mallory Pugh drew a foul in the attacking third for Washington roughly 63 minutes into the game. With it being too far out for a shot on goal, midfielder Andi Sullivan stepped up to take the kick. Sullivan played a well weighted ball towards the back post and found the head of Ashley Hatch. Hatch’s header would be good enough for the only goal of the game. With the assist, Sullivan picked up her first career professional point.

“Whit has been putting in some great services and I don’t know, for some reason I just felt inclined to take it and she let me which was great,” Sullivan said. “Then it was a little far out and we wanted to test their keeper but it was a little far and Mal looked at me and said serve it and I said ok. I think I like that service, like the back post bent service and Hatch is great in the air so I just looked to kind of hit it to that back six. It was one of those that as soon as it hit her head, I knew it was going in. So it was awesome, she is so good at that finish so I just wanted to serve it up to her.”

The goal was the first scored by the Spirit since April 28, a 1-1 draw vs. the Chicago. Hatch now has two goals on the year for Washington.

Mal did a good job of drawing the foul and Andi set up and I just wanted to start wide and run in on it,” Hatch said. “Andi put a perfect flighted ball and it was easy just to run in on it and tap it in.”

Rose Lavelle Makes Her Spirit Debut

Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle made her Spirit debut on Wednesday night, coming in for Estefania Banini in the 74th minute. Lavelle picked up her first NWSL minutes after having not played due to a hamstring injury since August of 2017. Her fresh legs helped the Spirit, who are playing three games in eight days.

“It felt really good,” Lavelle said. “I was really nervous going in because obviously I haven’t played in a about a lifetime. So I was really nervous but it’s the same game as before I got hurt. I just had to calm down and let my nerves settle and just enjoy the moment.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Rose Lavelle warms up prior to her first game action with the Washington Spirit.

Next Up

Washington now heads to Houston on Sunday to take on the Dash. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 8 p.m. Houston sits just two points ahead of the Spirit and sit in 7th place.

Andi SullivanAshley HatchEstefania BaniniEstelle JohnsonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageJim GabarraMeggie Dougherty HowardRebecca QuinnRose LavelleWhitney Church

After three weeks on the road, the Washington Spirit returned home to the Maryland SoccerPlex to take on the visiting Portland Thorns. One strike was all it took for the Thorns to take home all three points on a rainy Saturday night in Maryland.

For most of the evening, the Spirit had the better of the attack. But for the third straight game, Washington was unable to break the scoresheet and were shutout once again. In the 68th minute, Portland substitute Ellie Carpenter crashed hard to the net to finish a ball for her first ever NWSL goal, making her the youngest to ever score in the league.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Bledsoe; Smith, Church, Quinn, Dydasco; Dougherty Howard, Huster, Sullivan; Pugh, Hatch, Banini.

Whitney Church Shines at Center Back

In her three seasons for the Spirit, Whitney Church has struggled with the fast paced NWSL game. On Saturday night however, Church had one of her best games for the Spirit, anchoring the backline with Estelle Johnson out once again. While Church is not known for her speed, her positional awareness, ability to out jump players much taller than her, and her well weighted long balls have made her a key piece of this year’s backline.

“I saw what I expect to see from her. I’ve seen that in her for the last two to three years,” Gabarra said after the game. “She’s a tremendous defender and she always seems to be in the right place and that’s my expectation of her is to play games like that. I’m just glad she’s comfortable enough and secure enough now to be able to show everyone else.”

With Johnson out, the captain’s armband has been worn by Church. More of a quieter player in her first season, Church has stepped up and become a leader on the team. Alongside Johnson and Tori Huster, head coach Jim Gabarra considers Church to be one of the veteran leaders on the Spirit.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Whitney Church was presented the Spirit Squadron’s player of the match trophy following the game.

The Offense Goes Quiet Once Again

It has been over 350 minutes since the Spirit last scored a goal. On April 28, Francisca Ordega scored against the Chicago Red Stars in the 4th minute. Since then, the Spirit have played three full games without putting a goal up on the scoresheet. While the goalkeeping from the opposition has been good, the Spirit are just not getting it done. Washington ended up with four shots on goal, but most were right at Thorns goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom.

On Saturday night, the Spirit switched up the front three to try and get a spark going offensively. Ordega was sent to the bench and Estefania Banini moved up to the front line from the midfield. Alongside Banini were Mallory Pugh and Ashley Hatch. Ordega would eventually come in off the bench for Hatch, but was unable to deliver.

The Spirit will now welcome a winless Sky Blue team to the Plex on Wednesday night. Sky Blue has allowed 12 goals in just six games played this season. If the Spirit are going to break this goalless drought, it needs to come Wednesday night.

“I think we are getting the opportunities, we just need to put them away,” midfielder Andi Sullivan said. “We have great opportunities to break through and we just have got to have that final touch. I think it takes like 10 shots to make a goal so the floodgates are going to open soon, I’m sure.”

A Possible Rose Lavelle Return

According to head coach Jim Gabarra, midfielder Rose Lavelle could be available for Wednesday’s game against Sky Blue.

“We’re hopeful that Wednesday she’s available for selection.”

Lavelle, who has been out with a hamstring injury since August 2, was acquired in the dispersal draft from the Boston Breakers. If Lavelle is available on Wednesday, expect her to play very limited minutes off the bench. This isn’t the first time this season that Lavelle has been deemed almost ready to play so it will most likely be something that isn’t actually confirmed until Wednesday.

Next Up

The Spirit will return to action on Wednesday night to take on Sky Blue at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kickoff for the match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. After that, the Spirit will travel to Houston to take on the Dash on Sunday, May 27.

Ashley HatchAubrey BledsoeEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageRebecca Quinn

The Washington Spirit wrapped up the game road trip with a 1-0 loss to the first place North Carolina Courage on Saturday night.

In front of 5,866 fans in Cary, NC, the Spirit and the Courage played an even match for much of the evening. North Carolina eventually broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute with a goal from Abby Erceg off of a free kick. For the second straight game, the Spirit failed to score a goal.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Bledsoe; Smith, Church, Quinn, Dydasco; Sullivan, Huster, Banini; Pugh, Ordega, Hatch

Rebecca Quinn Starts at Center Back

Rebecca Quinn, the number three overall pick in the 2018 draft, made her first career start at center back on Saturday. In her previous appearances for Washington, she has mainly played in the midfield as the number six also known as a defensive midfielder in a 4-3-3 formation. However, with Estelle Johnson out due to a hamstring injury, Quinn slid into the backline to play alongside of Whitney Church. With short preparation time, the two ended up holding down the line well, keeping most of the Courage opportunities out to the flanks.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Rebecca Quinn strikes the ball against North Carolina on Saturday, May 12.

Quinn has played center back before for the Canadian National Team as well as in spurts for the Duke Blue Devils. While she can play either spot, she has said previously that she prefers playing in the midfield.

“I mean obviously it’s an adjustment any time you have a new backline, it’s not like the midfield,” Quinn said. “Being in the back four, you need to be sharp as nails. Overall I think it was a solid effort, good communication throughout the back and I’m happy with the start.”

Free Kicks Cost Washington Again

In the first game against the Courage, mistakes on free kicks cost the Spirit. While Washington did a good job early on of protecting the goal and not giving up many dangerous opportunities, the fouls just kept coming in the second half. Just about 15 minutes into the second half, midfielder Havana Solaun fouled Merritt Mathias just outside the top corner of the box. Jaelene Hinkle stepped up to take the kick and whipped it across the middle of the box. Abby Erceg broke free from Ashley Hatch and was able to head home the ball.

“I thought we performed well, it’s just one set piece,” goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe said. “Abby Erceg broke free and that’s what they do, they finish their chances. So it was a good go for us, getting better every game. Last time we played them it was 4-2 and today their defense was a lot more organized.”

The Courage are known for their free kicks. North Carolina has the height and skill that makes it very hard for teams to defend against. For Bledsoe, the Spirit need to work on one major thing moving forward on free kicks.

“It just comes down to discipline honestly. It’s not really a matter of talent or practicing them. It’s staying locked in,” Bledsoe said. “You’re responsible, you’re reliable for your mark so organization early, getting back in, know your responsibility and just performing. It’s discipline and focus and we did well up until that one.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Aubrey Bledsoe during the match vs. North Carolina on May 12.

Next Up

It’s back to the nation’s capital for the Washington Spirit as they take on the Portland Thorns. The match, which will be at the Maryland SoccerPlex, will take place on Saturday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m. It will be the Thorns only trip to the Plex as the next time these two teams meet it will be at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.