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.

Cali FarquharsonCheyna WilliamsChristine NairnCrystal DunnGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKelsey Wys

Wednesday night’s matchup between the Washington Spirit and the Seattle Reign had it all. Between numerous weather delays, a pre game controversy, two penalty kicks, three goals,  and a chance to clinch home field advantage for the semi finals, the Maryland SoccerPlex was a busy place to be for a midweek clash in the NWSL.

Foul weather moved into the area just prior to kickoff which pushed kickoff back nearly one hour. The delay sent the teams back into the locker room, while the national anthem was played in the stadium. The move was one done intentionally by the Spirit organization, specifically owner Bill Lynch, in response to recent protests during the national anthem by athletes, Megan Rapinoe in particular.

“We respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal – albeit worthy – cause,” the Spirit said in a statement prior to Wednesday’s kickoff.

Starting XI: Wys; Dydasco, Zadorsky, Johnson, Kleiner; Nairn ©, Sigvardsen, Matheson; Williams, Ordega, Farquharson
Starting XI: Wys; Dydasco, Zadorsky, Johnson, Kleiner; Nairn ©, Sigvardsen, Matheson; Williams, Ordega, Farquharson

While much of the attention surrounding the game went to the incident with the anthem, overlooked was the fact that with the 2-1 win over the Reign, the Spirit clinched the first home playoff game for the franchise. A penalty kick from midfielder Kim Little made the game close, but goals from forwards Crystal Dunn and Cheyna Williams were too much for the Reign to overcome.

Dunn started the game on the bench, but just six minutes into the game, the US national team star was forced into action. Forward Cali Farquharson was injured after colliding with a Reign player and was carried off the field by the stretcher. Farquharson returned to the field on crutches and a brace on her left knee after the game.

Williams drew a penalty kick for the Spirit in the 41st minute, but midfielder Christine Nairn would put the kick wide of the right post. Nairn would redeem herself late in first half stoppage time as she played a free kick quickly to Dunn down the right side of the field. Dunn cut back towards the center of the field before ripping a shot towards the back post, placing it in the upper corner past Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer’s outstretched arms.

“She really turned the corner tonight,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “I thought she was playing one, two touch, she was moving and then when she had the chance to take someone one v one, and then just a spectacular shot.”

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Dunn once again had an impact, setting up Williams for the second goal of the game. As Dunn neared the end line, she played a ball into the six yard box of Seattle. Kopmeyer was able to get a hand on it, but a crashing Williams deposited the rebound for her third goal of the season.

“Up front, we have the unfortunate injury to Cali and then to have Crystal and Cheyna and [Ordega] on the same field up front really prevented them from holding a high line like they tried to hold in the first half,” Gabarra said. “We put them under a lot of pressure and kind of kept them honest and they couldn’t throw everything at us as much as they would like.”

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Kim Little would get one back for the away team in the 70th minute on a penalty kick past Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys. Seattle was awarded the penalty after a handball in the box by Nairn. The defense for the Spirit stood tall all game to assure the potent attack of the Reign remained under control.

“It was a very good team performance and especially rewarding for me to start seven different players and have a player like Line step out there and not having played in the league and play 90 minutes against the best midfield in the league and hold their own,” Gabarra said. “I thought Kleiner was great at right back, Caprice, that was probably her best game of the season and Shelina Zadorsky stepping in and kind of leading the back line was just awesome.”

The Spirit will hit the road for the final two regular season games of the year. First up is a trip to Seattle for a Sunday rematch with the Reign. Kickoff for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m. (10 p.m. on the east coast.) The final game of the regular will be Sep. 24, 2016 in Chicago vs. the Red Stars.

Photo Credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos

Cali FarquharsonGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKatie Stengel

On Friday night, the Washington Spirit played the Boston Breakers to a 1-1 draw at Jordan Field in Boston. Playing in its first game since May 21 in Portland, the Spirit scored first on a goal by Katie Stengel in the 13th minute. The lead would last just two minutes as Boston’s Louise Schillgard slotted home a penalty kick.

Despite struggling to connect many passes in the final third, the Spirit used a nice build up down the right side to pick up the only goal from the run of the play. Crystal Dunn played a cross from the right into the six yard box. Joanna Lohman got on the end of it, but her shot was blocked. The rebound found Stengel on the back post, who tucked it away for her second on the year.

“I think most of the first half [Dunn] was the reason we were getting chances in the box,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “It was because she was getting end line and putting them under a lot of pressure in the wide areas.”

Under two minutes later, Spirit rookie Cali Farquharson clipped Boston forward Brooke Elby just inside the box. While there is some debate about the call, a penalty kick was awarded to the Breakers. Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys had no chance to stop it as Schillgard forced Wys to go the wrong direction. That would be the only goal given up by Wys in her season debut.

Starting XI: Wys; Kleiner, Zadorsky, Oyster, Krieger; Nairn, Huster, Lohman; Farquharson, Stengel, Dunn
Starting XI: Wys; Kleiner, Zadorsky, Oyster, Krieger; Nairn, Huster, Lohman; Farquharson, Stengel, Dunn

Both sides had numerous chances throughout the game, especially in the second half. Spirit subs Estefania Banini and Francisca Ordega brought a much needed spark to the second half, but neither were able to find the back of the net. Ordega made her season debut, playing 21 minutes for the visitors.

Physical play from both sides had both head coaches voicing their displeasure with the officials. Two yellow cards were given out on the evening, with each team picking up one. Cheyna Williams was shown a yellow for Washington in the 90th minute.

“Every player on the field tonight was frustrated. We felt like we created enough chances to get three points,” Gabarra said.
The Spirit return home next Saturday for a showdown with the Orlando Pride. Kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m. This will be the first game of a four game homestead for the Spirit.

 

Cali FarquharsonCrystal DunnGame PreviewJim GabarraJoanna LohmanPodcast

Cali Farquharson

Week 6 is here! Cali Farquharson and the Washington Spirit head to Portland to face the Thorns. Both teams go into the match undefeated, so there is a lot both teams can prove with a win tonight.

This week’s episode features sound bites from Coach Gabarra, Crystal Dunn, and Joanna Lohman on teamwork and camaraderie.

Then, a few minutes previewing the match in Portland.

The podcast wraps up with a fun interview with rookie forward Cali Farquharson.

Enjoy!

#WhenIRoot

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Be sure to follow us on Twitter and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Use #FollowYourSpirit and #WhenIRoot to support the team, the coverage, and the community.

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Cali FarquharsonCrystal DunnGame Day CoverageStephanie Labbe

The Washington Spirit continued its undefeated season Saturday night after a scoreless draw against the Portland Thorns. It marked the first time all year that the Spirit was held off the scoresheet. The match also marked the third clean sheet for the team of the young season.  Each side had plenty of opportunities, but the goalkeepers and backlines made sure nothing was going in.

“The team played so well today, I mean you could see all the chances we were getting,” Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé said. “So I think the biggest thing about the clean sheet was that offensively we played really well. I had a few saves to make, but especially second half, there wasn’t too much for me to do. All props to the team in front of me for being really well organized offensively and getting their chances.”

It was a very physical game, with both teams trading fouls and yellow cards. Five yellow cards were handed out on the evening, two of those given to Thorns captain Tobin Heath. The first card of the evening was given to Spirit defender Megan Oyster for a tackle just outside the box on Heath.

The Spirit saw several prime opportunities in the first half on runs by forwards Crystal Dunn and Cali Farquharson. These runs lead to multiple corners which in turn, produce many scoring chances for the home team.

“All through preseason this was a tough bunch of girls and they never made anything easy for me in training,” Dunn said the Spirit’s defense this season. “I’m super excited about it. Being a defender myself, I know clean sheets are definitely something to be proud of.”

In the 59th minute, the Spirt earned a free kick and Spirit captain Ali Krieger stepped up to take the kick. Heath encroached Krieger before the kick which earned Heath her first yellow. Twentynine minutes later, Heath was called for a foul on Oyster. Out of frustration with the call, Heath spiked the ball on the ground, earning her her second yellow of the evening and a red card.

Down at ten men for the remaining two minutes plus stoppage time, the Thorns had to fend off a spirited attack from Washington. Dunn and second half substitute, Christine Nairn, both had shots on goal in stoppage time, but neither were able to break the deadlock.

“I’m very proud of my team today,” Dunn said. “I think we played the best soccer we’ve played all season. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a goal. But I mean, we played some great soccer and we played a really great team tonight so I’m very happy.”

With the draw, the Spirit improves to 3-0-1 on the season, and remain at the top of the table. The Houston Dash (2-1-1) will come to town on May 14, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

 

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.

Cali FarquharsonCrystal DunnGame Day CoverageJoanna Lohman

The Washington Spirit opened up the historic fourth season of the NWSL on Saturday with a 1-0 victory at home versus the Boston Breakers. A goal by Joanna Lohman in the 3rd minute was all the Spirit would need to pick up the full three points.

After making a run down the right side of the field, forward Katie Stengel found Crystal Dunn streaking to the near post. When Dunn received the ball, she sent in a cross that found Lohman at the top of the six yard box. Lohman, with her back to goal, executed a bicycle kick to send the ball just past Boston goalkeeper Libby Stout’s outstretched arms and into the back of the net.

“The ball was a little bit behind me and it was my only option to get to it,” Lohman said. “So I thought why the heck not. There is no other way I’m going to score. You want to at least try and score, so I flipped it around and tried to attempt a bicycle kick and I some how pulled it off.”

From then on, the new and improved back line for the Spirit held strong in front of Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Boston had a few flourishes of opportunities, but the strong play of Labbé sent them back to Beantown with zero points.

Both teams traded fouls back and fourth throughout the game, but it wasn’t until the 86th minute that a player was put into the book. Spirit defender Megan Oyster was shown a yellow card for a foul, just outside the 18 yard box, on Breakers forward Kyah Simon.

In the 69th minute, Cali Farquharson came into the game, replacing Katie Stengel. This was Farquharson’s NWSL debut after being drafted by the Spirit in the offseason. The young forward used her fresh legs to counterattack and put Boston back on its heels. Along with the substitution of Diana Matheson for Estefania Banini, the home side held off the visitors push for an equalizer late in the game in front of 3,578 fans.

“It was a good test for us, for our concentration,” Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra said. “We defended and tried to keep the ball in their half as much as possible the last 15-20 minutes.”

The Spirit will be back in action next weekend, as they travel to New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC (1-0). Kick off for that matchup will be at 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 24th. Washington’s next home match will be on May 7th at 7 p.m. as the Portland Thorns come to town.