On Saturday night, the Washington Spirit returned home to take on the Houston Dash. The Spirit once again separated themselves into first place with a point from a 0-0 draw. Aubrey Bledsoe picked up her fifth shutout in the draw as the team extended their unbeaten run to seven games.
Defense comes up big in shutout
The Spirit were forced to make two changes along the backline last night as McKenzie Berryhill came in for Paige Nielsen at center back and Dorian Bailey at left back for Tegan McGrady. Nielsen was out with an excused absence while McGrady was out with a thigh injury. Both played well and the whole back line kept the Dash attack at bay. Berryhill and Bailey, alongside back line regulars in Sam Staab and Tori Huster, did not allow a shot on target. They will have their hands full next week when North Carolina comes to town.
Spirit honor Joanna Lohman with halftime ceremony
For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Spirit have retired a player’s number. Joanna Lohman, who retired just before the start of the 2019 season, had her number 15 retired on Saturday night. The Spirit honored her at halftime with a video message from the front office and owner Bill Lynch also spoke. After the game, a video message from the team was played just after the final whistle. Lohman will now work with the team in an ambassador role.
Unbeaten streak extended to seven games
Saturday night, the Washington Spirit extended their unbeaten run to seven games. In that time, they have four wins and four shutouts. While last night wasn’t their best performance, the 0-0 shutout was enough to keep things going for the league leading Spirit. Houston sat very deep throughout the game and made it very difficult for the Spirit to get anything going offensively. Ashley Hatch had the best chance of the game in the second half but her header went just wide of the post. If the Spirit are going to keep the streak alive, they will have to start putting it in the back of the net, especially against North Carolina next week.
The Washington Spirit will continue their homestand as they welcome North Carolina to town next weekend. The Spirit will host Teacher Appreciation Night on June 29 and kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Timothy Lawson & Jordan Small get behind the microphones for the first time of 2019. The Follow Your Spirit cohosts catch up on all noteworthy Washington Spirit news going back to September 2018. They discuss the big trade on draft day, the players drafted by the Spirit, waivers, resigns, and the Spirit’s new-look website.
The Washington Spirit hosted Sky Blue in the season finale this weekend. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday evening, but after hours of a lightning delay, the game was eventually postponed until the next morning. On Sunday morning, the two teams would score late in the second half to finish with a 1-1 draw.
Arielle Ship returns with first goal of 2018
After picking up her first minutes of the season last weekend at Audi Field, Arielle Ship made her second appearance on Sunday. Ship came in for Cali Farquharson in the 58th minute. Ship made an immediate impact as she brought pace to the game and was working well up front with Francisca Ordega.
That partnership paid off in the 71st minute.
It had been 765 minutes since Washington last put the ball into the back of the net on July 7th against Orlando. Ship broke that streak with her first goal of the season. The original shot was taken by Ordega which Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was able to stop. The rebound fell to Ship, whos first shot was also stopped by Sheridan. Ship then collected her own rebound and put it home for her first goal of the year.
Aubrey Bledsoe sets saves record
All season, Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe has had the difficult task of stopping a lot of shots. On Sunday morning, the story was no different. Bledsoe was forced to make five saves on six shots. She also was forced to stand in for a penalty attempt, but She Groom’s shot hit the crossbar. It was the fourth save of the morning that was the biggest one for Bledsoe. That save racked up her season total to 108 which pushed her past Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher for the most in NWSL history in a single season.
Spirit start three National Team Replacement players in final game
With the Spirit having eight players gone with their national teams for the FIFA Break, Washington signed five players to National Team Replacement contracts. Zoe Clark, Megan Crosson, Tiffany McCarty and Alexa Newfield, and goalkeeper Morgan Ruhl all were in the lineup on Sunday. Clark, Crosson, and McCarty were featured in the starting XI while Newfield came on as a sub in the second half.
On Saturday night, the Washington Spirit and Houston Dash were set to face off at the Maryland SoccerPlex, but Mother Nature had other plans.
According to the National Weather Service, more than six inches of rain fell in the area on Saturday. That caused flooding on the field and the referees deemed it unplayable. The game was rescheduled and played on Sunday morning with a 10 a.m. local kickoff.
“You tailor your whole day towards the game,” Spirit defender Rebecca Quinn said. “I know a couple of the players were having caffeine at a little later hours of the night so it was a bit tough getting to bed yesterday. I think it’s fun having it at our normal training so we’re normally ready to go at 10 a.m. in the morning so that wasn’t too bad.”
Right from the get go, the pace was flying. Francisca Ordega nearly scored in the first minute but Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell was able to keep it out. In the third minute, Dash forward Rachel Daly got on the end of a Sofia Huerta ball and put it past an on rushing Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
Spirit find success in 3-5-2 formation
Washington continued to press for much of the game but never found the back of the net. In total, the Spirit managed nine shots on goal and 11 corner kicks, both season highs. Much of that success had to do with the formation that head coach Jim Gabarra had them playing. A 3-5-2 with Quinn, Estelle Johnson, and Tori Huster in the back and Taylor Smith and Caprice Dydasco as wingbacks on the outside provided Washington with the attacking presence that has been missing for most of the season.
“I think that’s always a positive with our wingbacks, as you would call it, getting forward,” Quinn said. “Especially with Taylor getting a lot of options end line. She gave us some really good chances in both halves. I think that’s the main positive coming out of that formation. Then as well, me and Tori were able to get into some good spaces to distribute into our forwards as well.”
Field conditions greatly improved on Sunday
Despite the dumping of water that occurred on Saturday, the field managed to drain fairly well overnight. With rain showers stopping around midnight, the field was able to dry out to become playable on Sunday. There did not appear to be any standing water inside the lines, unlike Saturday night. Saturday evening, there were huge puddles stretching from one 18 yard box to the other.
“Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised coming out here this morning with how it drained out,” Quinn said. “I was a little bit skeptical when they were saying it only took an hour but I guess they were right, the grounds crew. It wasn’t bad at all, there weren’t any puddles. I was pretty happy with it.”
The NWSL will take next weekend off as the United States plays host to Japan, Australia, and Brazil in the Tournament of Nations. When action gets back underway on August 5, the Spirit will head out to the west coast to take on the Seattle Reign. That will be the first of three games the Spirit will play on the road.
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.
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.
In the only NWSL game during the FIFA window, the Washington Spirit took on Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field. With both teams desperately needing a win, a scoreless draw was the end result.
Defense Comes Up Big
For the second time this season, the Washington Spirit have held Sky Blue scoreless. Sky Blue had the better of the play during the match but were unable to score a goal. Center back Estelle Johnson and goalkeeper Audrey Bledsoe both came up big late in the second half to keep things scoreless. A timely slide tackle in stoppage time by Johnson ultimately kept a point in the bag for Washington.
Andi Sullivan Misses Chance at First Career Goal
In the 79th minute, Washington’s Estefania Banini drew a penalty with a chance to take the lead. Andi Sullivan stepped up to take the kick, but her shot was blocked by Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. The penalty was poorly struck and Sheridan was able to get her palm on it easily.
After recording her first professional assist against Sky Blue in the first matchup, Sullivan has still yet to record a goal. The rookie midfielder has not had the first season that many had anticipated and has struggled on both sides of the ball. Despite that, she has helped hold down the midfield, even with all the changes in the lineup around her.
Mallory Pugh Out 8-10 Weeks
The Washington Spirit announced on Friday afternoon that Mallory Pugh will be out 8-10 weeks due to a knee injury. Pugh sprained her posterior cruciate ligament in the Spirit’s match against the Houston Dash on May 27. While the injury typically heals without surgery, it is unclear from the release if it will be required in this instance. Pugh will begin training again in the latter part of her recovery, according to the Spirit.
The Spirit will return home to take on the Seattle Reign on Saturday, June 16. This will be the first matchup between these two teams since the season opener in Seattle, a 2-1 victory for Seattle. With it being after the FIFA break, the international players will be available for selection.
With this being the third game in eight days for Washington, it is possible that the Spirit will have a very different looking lineup against the Dash. Head coach Jim Gabarra had mentioned after the Sky Blue game that the defense could see some different looks to get some players rest, specifically the outside backs of Caprice Dydasco and Taylor Smith. However, with the Spirit in dire need of points, Washington could go with a similar lineup as what was seen on Wednesday night.
Stay Compact. The Spirit have done a good job of staying compact along the back line in the past three games. In those three games, they have only allowed two goals, with one coming off of a free kick. Taylor Smith and Caprice Dydasco have settled into their roles at outside back and have found the balance between attacking and defending. The center backs of Whitney Church, Rebecca Quinn, and Estelle Johnson have done well despite rotation due to injuries. If goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe can keep the backline in check in front of her, the Spirit could go on a run here at a time where they desperately need points.
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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.
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.
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.”
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.