Photos by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)
On the second road trip of the season, the Washington Spirit picked up their first road point with a 1-1 draw at the Portland Thorns.
The scoring happened all in the first half, but most of the opportunities came in the second. Francisca Ordega opened the scoring on a scrapy play in front in the 37th minute. In added time of the first half, Caprice Dydasco fouled Ifeoma Onumonu in the box. Thorns forward Christine Sinclair would convert the penalty to tie it up at one. The Thorns had a chance to win it in the 87th minute, but Lindsey Horan would have her penalty kick saved by Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe to keep it tied.
Aubrey Bledsoe Comes Up Big
Late in the game, with the Thorns on the attack, Aubrey Bledsoe was forced to come up with a big save after a potentially costly mistake. A ball was played into the box from deep and it was a race between Bledsoe and Thorns defender Emily Sonnett for the ball. Sonnett got there before Bledsoe, and the goalkeeper would then foul Sonnett.
After the nasty tackle, Bledsoe had to step up and try to save a penalty to keep her team tied. Lindsey Horan would step up, backup, restart her run, and eventually have her kick saved by Bledsoe. It was her second career penalty kick save.
Ordega Wreaks Havoc
Francisca Ordega opened the scoring in the 37th minute, her second on the season. Tori Huster’s corner was poorly cleared and it bounced to the center of the six yard box. Thorns goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom was unable to grab it and a scramble in the box lead to Ordega poking it through.
Ordega had multiple other chances and was difficult to slow down when she was running at the backline. WIth the Thorns playing only three in the back, the front line of Ordega, Mallory Pugh, and Ashley Hatch were able to get it going for much of the first half. The second half was not as strong, but the trio is really starting to come together.
Tori Huster Returns to the Starting XI
Spirit midfielder Tori Huster returned to the starting XI on Friday night. Huster, alongside of Andi Sullivan and Meggie Dougherty Howard, held down their area well against four midfielders for the Thorns. This greatly helped the defense of the Spirit, who, alongside of Aubrey Bledsoe, had a fairly quiet evening. If Rebecca Quinn remains injured, the Spirit will most likely stick with this trio.
Washington will return home next weekend to take on the Chicago Red Stars. The match is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. on April 28.
The Washington Spirit welcomed the North Carolina Courage to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday evening. In their first matchup of the regular season, the Spirit (1-2-0) fell to the visiting Courage (3-0-0) 4-2.
Washington opened up the scoring in the third minute off of a goal from Mallory Pugh. The Courage tied it up in the 20 minute on Crystal Dunn’s first career goal with North Carolina. Just four minutes later, a free kick goal from McCall Zerboni put the visitors ahead. Another goal from Zerboni and one more from Lynn Williams in the second half ultimately sank the Spirit. Despite a goal from Francisca Ordega in the 58 minute, a comeback just was not in the cards for the Spirit.
Set Play Goals Sink the Spirit
Of the four goals the Spirit gave up on Saturday night, two came off of set plays. The first goal from McCall Zerboni was off a free kick from just around 20 yards out. The free kick came from a mistake by Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who played the ball with her hands outside of the 18 yard box. Another mistake came in the wall placement and Zerboni was able to slip the ball around and into the back of the net.
The second goal for Zerboni came off of a corner kick. North Carolina moved the ball around well off of the corner and the Spirit failed to clear. The ball eventually was played across the six yard box and found a wide open Zerboni at the back post.
“I mean this is one of the best teams in our game on set plays and that was certainly a goal to not concede on a set play,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “But the first one, the wall was 15 yards away and it’s a bad mistake by our goalkeeper to give away a free kick there. So that could have been prevented by not giving them a free kick. If you get a properly set wall, maybe we get to block it. The other corner, that’s a mistake defensively, letting the player turn and drive the ball across the six.”
Partnership Forming On Left Side
While the Spirit have many new faces on the field, one partnership that is in full bloom is the one between Mallory Pugh and Caprice Dydasco. With Pugh playing in the midfield this week, the partnership was really highlighted.
In the first half, this combo was tearing up the North Carolina defense. However, it wasn’t until about halfway through the second half that the duo got going again. If they can continue the play, it’ll be a headache for the NWSL defenders going forward.
“Whoever you put out there with Caprice, Caprice finds a way to blend in and work well with whoever is out there,” Gabarra said. “I think with Mal out there, Mal is a similar case. It’s pretty easy to play with her, she’s such a good player. As we develop, we like to see those relationships throughout the group.”
Mallory Pugh Leaves Game With Injury
Spirit forward Mallory Pugh left the match in the 75 minute after pulling up because of an injury. While it is unknown what the injury is exactly, it appears to be on the right leg of Pugh. After exiting the game, Pugh was sporting an ice pack on her lower knee and upper shin area. She will be further evaluated this week.
The Spirit will head out to the west coast for their next match. Washington will travel to Providence Park to face the Portland Thorns on Friday, April 20. Kick-off for that match will be at 10:30 p.m. ET.
With the 2018 season beginning on Saturday, Follow Your Spirit brings you a break down of each position group on the Washington Spirit. Next up, the defenders.
#5 – Whitney Church
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Ashburn, Virginia
#3 – Caprice Dydasco
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
#24 – Estelle Johnson
- Age: 29
- Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado
#4 – Rebecca Quinn
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Toronto, Canada
#7 – Taylor Smith
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
This offseason, the Spirit acquired Taylor Smith in a trade with North Carolina. They also added Rebecca Quinn with the number 3 overall draft pick. While the Spirit didn’t do a lot to improve their defense, the small changes will definitely help moving into 2018. Looking at the first game of the season, expect Smith to be at right back, Quinn to be at right center back, Estelle Johnson at left center back, and Caprice Dydasco at left back.
The biggest concern with this group is going to be that right side for a few different reasons. In the one preseason game where all five of these players saw time, they allowed three goals. Smith is great at getting forward and up into the play but has struggled at times getting back against tougher opponents. Also, while Quinn plays at center back for Canada, she has mentioned that she enjoys playing in the midfield role more, a spot she occupied regularly at Duke. With national team games happening frequently throughout the season as World Cup qualifiers approach, the Spirit will struggle to field a backline. Quinn and Smith have both been consistent call-ups over the past year and will likely continue to be in 2018. Luckily for the Spirit, there are midfielders on the roster that have experience playing on the backline.
Player to Watch
Rebecca Quinn has been capped by the Canadian National Team 37 times in her senior career. Since the Rio Olympics, Quinn has become a consistent name on the backline for Canada. With that comes a lot of lessons and leadership opportunities.
“I mean a lot of good takeaways from being with the national team. I think leadership is a big one. I’ve had to play a leadership role on the national team playing center back at a pretty young age so I think coming in as a rookie to the NWSL, I can show a bit of that as well. Then I think just playing with high-quality players. I mean the U.S., number one team in the world and playing against their national team on a regular basis will only be good for me going into France in 2019.”
Tomorrow’s preview will take a look at the midfield for the Spirit. This is the largest position group for Washington and one that head coach Jim Gabarra has talked a lot about since the draft.
Jordan Small and Tim Lawson catch up on all of the player movement and acquisitions, including the 2018 college draft.
After a week off for the first international break, the Washington Spirit were back in action on Saturday afternoon to take on the Chicago Red Stars. Francisca Ordega scored for the Spirit, but a goal from Christen Press saw the Spirit leaving Chicago with just one point after a 1-1 draw.
Ordega opened the scoring in the 42nd minute off of a well timed through ball from Cheyna Williams. The ball just sneaked around Red Stars defender Sam Johnson and Ordega was able to peel off her mark to receive the pass. After winning the foot race, Ordega tucked the ball around goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for the first goal of the game.
It looked as if the Spirit would walk away with three points on the road, but an ill-timed tackle in the box from Shelina Zadorsky resulted in a penalty kick. Christen Press, who was fouled by Zadorsky, stepped up to take the kick and beat goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé for the equalizer.
While Labbé gave up the goal on a penalty kick she turned in another solid performance for her squad. She recorded three saves on four shots on goal from Chicago. Her biggest save of the afternoon came in the 51st minute off of a shot from Chicago midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo.
The lineup for the Spirit was a bit different on Saturday as Mallory Pugh was out with an ankle injury sustained with the USWNT and Tori Huster remains out with a right quad injury. Defender Kassey Kallman made her return to the lineup after not being used since the Seattle match five weeks ago. Caprice Dydasco returned to the pitch for the first time following an ACL tear in the 2016 NWSL Championship match last October. She entered the match in the 61st minute and did not appear to be restricted in any manner.
Washington returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex this Saturday as they take on the fourth place Portland Thorns. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Spirit Squadron will be hosting their annual Pride Night at this match.
As the 2017 NWSL season approaches, we will be rolling out profiles on the 2017 Washington Spirit roster.
Name: Caprice Dydasco
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
Last season: Caprice Dydasco started 12 regular season matches and both playoff games for the Spirit in 2016. Her championship game appearance was cut short after she tore her ACL in the 22nd minute of the match. Dydasco won the early season competition with Alyssa Kleiner for the starting left back spot and became a regular on the backline for the second half of the season.
2017 season: After having surgery in early November to repair her ACL tear, Dydasco is in preseason camp with the Spirit. Out of the three ACL injuries for the Spirit last season, Dydasco appears to be the most likely to return in the early part of the season. If the Spirit stick with three on the backline for the regular season, Dydasco could play as an outsideback or a wingback in the midfield. Her pace and ability to get involved in the offense will be beneficial to the Spirit.
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)