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.

Andi SullivanAubrey BledsoeEstefania BaniniEstelle JohnsonGame Day Coverage

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.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Bledsoe; Smith, Church, Johnson, Dydasco; Proffitt, Dougherty-Howard, Sullivan; Banini, Huster, Weimer

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.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Andi Sullivan takes a penalty kick in the 79th minute against Sky Blue.

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.

Next Up

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.

Aubrey BledsoeCaprice DydascoEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageGame PreviewJim GabarraRebecca QuinnTaylor SmithWhitney Church

After a midweek win against Sky Blue at home, the Washington Spirit will head to Houston to take on the Dash. The Spirit will have a chance to move within four points of a playoff spot.

Kick-Off

8:00 PM ET on Sunday, May 27, 2018

Location

BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Rebecca Quinn, Estefania Banini; Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega

Noteworthy

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.

Injuries

OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: None

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

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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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.

Aubrey BledsoeEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageGame PreviewRose Lavelle

The Washington Spirit will play their first midweek match on Wednesday night when they take on Sky Blue FC. This will be the second match in five days for the Spirit after falling to the Portland Thorns 1-0 this past Saturday.

Kick-Off

7:30 PM ET on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Location

Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Rebecca Quinn,  Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Tori Huster, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Estefania Banini

Noteworthy

Midfielder Rose Lavelle and defender Estelle Johnson were both not listed on the injury list for Wednesday night’s game. Johnson has missed the past two matches because of a hamstring strain. Lavelle, acquired from Boston in the dispersal draft, has yet to suit up for Washington. A hamstring strain has kept Lavelle out of NWSL play since August of 2017.

Injuries

OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: None

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Don’t Give Up Free Kicks. The Spirit have given up some juicy free kicks so far this season and it has cost them. In the season opener, Seattle’s Megan Rapinoe buried a curler right past goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. In both games against North Carolina this season, Washington has given up a free kick goal. Against North Carolina on Saturday, Sky Blue’s Carli Lloyd tucked one into the upper 90 during extra time to bring Sky Blue within one. If the Spirit want to keep Sky Blue off the board, being smart about where they are giving up fouls is very important.

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Aubrey BledsoeCali FarquharsonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageGame PreviewMallory Eubanks

After three weeks on the road, the Washington Spirit will return home to take on the Portland Thorns. This will be the second meeting of the season for these teams. In the first matchup in Portland, Oregon, the two teams tied 1-1 on a first half goal from either side.

Kick-Off

7:00 PM ET on Saturday, May 19, 2018

Location

Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Rebecca Quinn,  Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Tori Huster, Estefania Banini; Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega

Noteworthy

Forward Cali Farquharson has been placed on the 45-day disabled list. Farquharson played in just one game for the Spirit so far in 2018, racking up in a total of eight minutes. In a corresponding move, the Spirit have signed 2018 draft pick Mallory Eubanks to a professional contract. Eubanks has appeared in three games for the Spirit in 2018, playing 79 minutes in total. She was previously under contract as a National Team Replacement Player.

Injuries

OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Rose Lavelle (left hamstring strain), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: Estelle Johnson (right hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Score. The past two games, the Washington Spirit have been shutout. They now have scored 7 goals in seven games while allowing 11 goals. Portland has scored 11 goals in eight games played. The last time these two teams played, Francisca Ordega opened the scoring in the 37th minute, but a penalty kick goal in stoppage time of the first half tied it up for the Thorns. With Aubrey Bledsoe holding it down on the backline, one or two goals should be good enough for at least a point.

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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.