Jordan Small and Timothy Lawson connect after four weeks since the last podcast. The two hosts cover every bit of news that has released in February, plus a couple announcements for Follow Your Spirit. Enjoy!
After more than a month on the road, the Washington Spirit returned to the Maryland SoccerPlex to take on the Boston Breakers. Despite having the lead twice in the match, the Spirit would only take away one point in the 2-2 draw.
Washington opened the scoring in the sixth minute on a goal from Estelle Johnson. The right back, who has been more engaged in the attack in recent weeks, saw her original shot blocked by Boston goalkeeper Abby Smith. The rebound fell right to Johnson who slotted home her second goal of the season.
“We worked all week on getting a lot of numbers forward and one thing that they really wanted from me is to contribute more to the attack,” Johnson said after the game.” I just saw it happening and we work a lot on passing patterns. I saw it happening in my head and I was like this is my chance. I kind of stole it from [Solaun] but sometimes you have to take initiative to get what you want.”
The Spirit looked as if they would take a 1-0 lead into the half, but a goal from Canadian international Adriana Leon brought the visitors back even. Leon tucked home her first of two goals on the afternoon just past Spirit goalkeeper DiDi Haracic in the 44th minute.
Around the halfway point of the second half, forward Cheyna Williams reclaimed the lead for the home side. Forward Estefania Banini played a ball towards the Boston goal where Smith made a tip save off the bar. The rebound, however, would fall right to the waiting head of Williams, who tapped the ball just over the goal line.
Leon would complete her brace in the 79th minute with the help of forward Ifeoma Onumonu. As Leon broke towards the center of the box, Onumonu played a ball across the face of goal, connecting with Leon’s left foot for the equalizer.
The tie on Saturday completed a stretch of three games in eight days for Washington. In total, 17 different players saw the field for the Spirit over the three game stretch. Haracic saw her first game action as a member of the Spirit on Saturday, making one save in the tie.
“We were always going to rotate the roster and that included the goalkeeper,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “DiDi has done a great job in training and deserved a game at some point.”
For Haracic, a Round Hill, VA native, it was an opportunity to play a professional match close to home. It was her first time playing at the Maryland SoccerPlex as a professional, but her experience as a member of the Spirit Reserves and D.C. United Women helped her get to where she is today.
“It’s a great opportunity to be playing back at home,” Haracic said after the game. “This league has grown so much from D.C. United Women to being on the Reserves to now being here. It was a great opportunity with a great crowd and a good atmosphere. I enjoyed it.”
Washington returns to action next Saturday, August 19 as they travel to Cary, NC to take on the North Carolina Courage. The game will be broadcasted on Lifetime as part of the Game of the Week series. Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. with kickoff to follow at 3:50 p.m. The Spirit return to the Plex on August 26 to take on the Chicago Red Stars.
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.
After three straight losses, the Washington Spirit found themselves on the winning side of things Saturday evening at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Goals from Cheyna Williams and Mallory Pugh coupled with a strong performance from goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé helped Washington get by the Houston Dash 2-0 in front of 3096 fans.
For the second straight week, the Spirit picked up an early goal to take a 1-0 advantage. Washington took the lead in the 3rd minute after a well timed through ball from midfielder Havana Solaun found Williams for her first goal of the season.
“It just happened really quick,” Williams said. “We talked about how we just wanted to attack today, we wanted to come out explosive. Havana played a great ball and I was like shoot, all I have to do is finish it. I know it’s early but just finish on one play at a time and that’s kinda what it was like.”
Unlike the game in Kansas City the week before, the Spirit were able to hold on to the lead heading into halftime. Strong performances from all parts of the field played a big part in holding the lead. While the team made adjustments from last week to improve in this area of their game, head coach Jim Gabarra stills wants his side to do a better job at maintaining a lead.
“I thought we probably could have put the game away in the first ten or fifteen minutes but we kind of let them in it so it’s something we are going to address and kind of a little bit of a killer instinct, continue to attack and score even if you’re ahead,” Gabarra said after the game. “After you score a goal, you should have energy and you should actually try and get a second goal right away, rather than kind of relax and take a rest and a pause. It’s definitely better than it has been in the last Kansas City game and it’s also an area that we can improve upon.”
The Spirit would double the lead in the 69th minute when Mallory Pugh scored her first professional goal. Pugh’s goal came after a well-organized passing sequence saw six different players make a pass before the 19-year-old slotted the shot through Dash goalkeeper Lydia Williams’ legs. With her goal, Pugh became the youngest player to ever score in the NWSL.
“It’s cool, especially against this intense team and in this league,” Pugh said. “There’s great players and to be able to score in this league, it’s super special. In practice, we were working on those types of shots, when it comes across your body and you want to place it back where it came from. I was hoping for it to go, just curl it into the back post, but it went through her legs and went in.”
For the Spirit, the shutout was the first of the season. After giving up 13 goals in the last four games, it appeared as if a shutout would not be coming. However, the Washington backline came together with Labbé to put in the group’s best overall performance of the season.
“I’m really happy right now. Getting a shutout feels really good,” Labbé said. “As a goalkeeper and part of a backline that’s what you strive every day to get. Getting that is a big relief. Just like all year, we just keep trucking and keep working. I think defensively today we were much tighter and seemed to have better connection within the full team. I think that’s what led to that shutout.”
The league will now go on break as many national teams are participating in friendly matches during this week’s FIFA window. Labbé, midfielder Lindsey Agnew and defender Shelina Zadorsky have been called up to the Canadian National team for two matches vs. Costa Rica on June 8 and 11. Pugh has also been called up to represent her national team as the United States will travel to Scandinavia to take on Sweden and Norway on June 8 and 11, respectively.
“For me, I’m just excited to get back with that team and that environment,” Labbé said of the upcoming friendlies. “Those girls are some of my best friends and I’ve been on that team for so long. So just to get back with that group of girls and enjoy it for what it is and just kind of be present when I’m there and take it all in and then come back with the Spirit.”
Washington will return to action on June 17 when they travel to Chicago to take on the Red Stars. That match is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET and can be found on Lifetime as part of the Game of the Week series. The Spirit will then return to the Maryland SoccerPlex on June 24 as they host Allie Long and the Portland Thorns.
The Washington Spirit traveled to the west coast for the first time this season on Saturday when they took on the Seattle Reign. Memorial Stadium was once again not kind to the Spirit as they fell to the Reign 6-2.
Reign forward Nahomi Kawasumi had a hand in five of the six goals with four assists and a goal of her own. The offensive explosion from the Reign is the second time they have scored five or more goals already this season.
Seattle went into halftime up 2-0 off of goals from former Spirit midfielder Christine Nairn and forward Beverly Yanez. The Spirit would get a goal back in the 60th minute when former Reign midfielder Havana Solaun beat Seattle goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer from the penalty spot. Washington was awarded the penalty after Cheyna Williams’ cross hit the outstretched arm of Rachel Corsie.
After the goal from Washington, Seattle would score four goals in 11 minutes. Megan Rapinoe had a brace sandwiched in between goals from Kawasumi and Lindsay Elston. Kristie Mewis got one back for the Spirit in the 88th minute to make it 6-2.
“If we had scored a second goal when it was 2-1 I think we could have come away with a win, but credit to Seattle for staying aggressive and punishing us defensively,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “I was proud of our team for fighting until the finish and getting another goal at the end.”
The one positive for the Spirit from Saturday evening was the addition of U.S. Women’s National Team star Mallory Pugh. Pugh was picked up with the number one allocation spot that was acquired through multiple offseason trades. The 19-year-old is set to make her debut on Saturday, May 20 when the Spirit welcome FC Kansas City to the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Opening weekend of the 5th NWSL season did not go the way the Washington Spirit had planned. Two starters left the game before halftime with injuries and the team would end up losing to the North Carolina Courage 1-0 after being heavily outshot.
Just 19 minutes into the game, Joanna Lohman was forced to come off the field because of an injury. Lohman fell to the pitch in pain after attempting to continue playing despite injuring her knee minutes earlier. With Lohman down, the Courage took advantage of the situation. McCall Zerboni was able to get on the end of a Makenzy Doniak cross to put the visitors up 1-0. Things would go from bad to worse for the Spirit in the 38th minute. While attempting to block a cross, Cheyna Williams took a ball off her foot and ankle that would eventually lead to her being subbed off.
“Injuries happen. Certainly, in the first half it makes it difficult with your substitution pattern,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “So we were kind of behind the eight ball having to make two subs.”
The Spirit struggled to connect passes and keep possession in the first half, but showed signs of improvement in the second half, ending the game with a 53-46 percent possession advantage. Despite the possession advantage, North Carolina won the battle in the midfield using their diamond shape to disrupt the Spirit attack. Washington only managed 3 shots in the game, none of which were on frame, while the Courage picked up 21 total shots with 9 of those coming on net.
“[The Courage] were playing with a diamond in the midfield so they were overloaded and they were able to push us to one side and then find their extra person on the other side of the field pretty easily,” Spirit midfielder Tori Huster said. “We can’t make it that easy for them to switch the field. I think being so disjointed didn’t help our attack either. We weren’t close enough to each other to get something going forward. Being the playmakers in the midfield, we’ve got to get on the ball and help things going forward with our forwards.”
The best chance for the Spirit came in the 63rd minute when Huster played a through ball to Katie Stengel. Stengel rounded Courage goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, but her shot attempt went wide right.
“It’s a little discouraging,” Huster said. “I think there was one play where Stengel would want that one back, usually she’s right on it. It just was an unfortunate day today, a little bit unlucky with that.”
The lone bright spot for the Spirit was the play of goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Labbé had multiple highlight reel saves, racking up eight total saves on the afternoon.
“I think we left her out to dry way too many times,” Gabarra said. “To only concede one goal, I think that says a lot about her performance as a shot stopper and that’s something we knew was there. Overall, I thought she saved us on numerous occasions.”
The Spirit will be back in action on April 22 as they head to Orlando to face off against the Pride. Orlando is also coming off an opening weekend loss as they fell 2-0 to the Thorns in Portland on Saturday night. The Spirit vs. Pride game will be available on Lifetime as part of the NWSL Game of the Week. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET.
As the 2017 NWSL season approaches, we will be rolling out profiles on the 2017 Washington Spirit roster.
Name: Cheyna Williams
Hometown: Hampton, Georgia
College: Florida State University
Last season: In the 2016 draft, the Spirit drafted Cheyna Williams with the 7th overall pick. Williams played in 17 matches for the Spirit in 2016, starting in 8 of those games, and scoring three goals in that time. With a deep frontline last season, Williams frequently found herself coming off the bench as she adjusted to play at the professional level.
2017 season: With key departures at the position, Williams will gain more playing time for Washington this season. So far this preseason, head coach Jim Gabarra has played Williams and Katie Stengel together for most of their time on the field. It appears these two will most likely be the starters when the North Carolina Courage come to town for the season opener. With a season under her belt at the professional level, Williams is poised to use her speed to produce more for the Spirit this season.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
Friday night’s matchup between the Washington Spirit and Orlando Pride was an opportunity for the Spirit to increase its lead on the rest of the league and get closer to securing a playoff spot. The Spirit traveled to Orlando to face the Pride in the first official game back from the Olympic break. Goals from forward Cheyna Williams and midfielder Christine Nairn would be enough for the Spirit to hold off the Pride for a 2-1 road win.
For most of the opening fifteen minutes, the visitors controlled the play, earning two early corner kicks. It wouldn’t be until the 37th minute that the persistence of the Spirit would pay off. Defender Caprice Dydasco played a ball into the box where Williams was able to shake Orlando defender Kaylyn Kyle to get off a left footed shot above goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
The Spirit would double its lead in the 57th minute off of a goal from Nairn. After dribbling into the box, forward Katie Stengel spun out of pressure to find a streaking Nairn wide open on the left side. Nairn took a setup touch before placing a low, hard shot back towards the right post past a visibly upset Harris. The goal was Nairn’s third in two games.
Orlando would not go down without a fight and managed to get a goal back in the 71st minute. Forward Sarah Hagen, who was a second half sub for Orlando head coach Tom Sermani, would get on the end of a ball in from Cami Levin to redirect it past Kelsey Wys. The goal from the Pride marked only the 14th goal given up by the Spirit in 16 games played. The Spirit now have a goal differential of +12, good for the best mark in the league.
The Spirit would clinch a playoff spot on Saturday if Reign FC lose or draw vs. Thorns FC and Sky Blue FC lose vs. Red Stars.
Forward Crystal Dunn made her return to the lineup after playing for the USWNT in the Rio Olympics. Dunn’s return came at the perfect time for the Spirit as Estefania Banini underwent knee surgery this past week. Banini is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.
NWSL action will return to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, Sep. 3, 2016. The Spirit will play host to the WNY Flash. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
More than two months after the original game was set to be played, the Houston Dash and Washington Spirit faced off on Thursday night for the second time this season. Two goals courtesy of Christine Nairn helped the Spirit walk away with the 2-1 victory and sole possession of first place in the NWSL.
Nairn would open the scoring in the 30th minute on a penalty kick for her first goal of the 2016 season. The penalty kick was awarded after Houston defender Cari Roccaro took down Spirit forward Cheyna Williams in the box. Nairn returned to the field to take the kick after being briefly sidelined due to an injury. The injury to Nairn’s shoulder occurred just minutes earlier when she was tangled up with Dash defender Ellie Brush. Although appearing to favor the shoulder, the injury did not prevent Nairn from completing the match.
Early in the second half, Nairn would double the lead, and her season goal total, in the 63rd minute. The midfielder picked up a ball near the center circle and quickly hit a chip shot over Dash goalkeeper Bianca Henninger, who was caught off her line.
In the 90th minute, Houston captain Kealia Ohai put home a cross from Stephanie Ochs, dashing the Spirit’s hope of walking away with its eighth shutout of the season. The goal would come too late for the Dash as they fell for the eighth time this season.
The Spirit buoyed by the return of captain Ali Krieger. Despite arriving from the Rio Olympics just days prior, Krieger was in the starting XI for the Spirit on Thursday night. Crystal Dunn was not available for the match, while the Canadian internationals, goalkeeper Steph Labbé, defender Shelina Zadorsky and midfielder Diana Matheson, will return from the Rio Olympics with the bronze medal. On another roster note, Megan Oyster ended her 34 games played streak. Oyster had started, in every game since being drafted in 2015.
The next match for the Spirit will be on Friday, August 26th, 2016 in Orlando. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. This game will be the second meeting between the two clubs, with the Spirit being victorious in the previous meeting. The Spirit will return to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, September 3rd, 2016 to face the WNY Flash in the second-to-last home game of the season.