Ashley HatchEstefania BaniniFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageGame Preview

The Washington Spirit return home to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday night to take on the Seattle Reign. Tonight is the unofficial Pride Night, hosted by the Spirit Squadron.

Kick-Off

7:00 PM ET on Saturday, June 16, 2018

Location

Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Rebecca Quinn, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Joanna Lohman, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Francisca Ordega, Ashley Hatch, Estefania Banini

Noteworthy

Rebecca Quinn, Francisca Ordega, Yanara Aedo, and Rose Lavelle have returned from international duty and will be available for selection on Saturday evening. With those players returning, Maddie Huster and Schuyler DeBree have been released.

Injuries

OUT: Whitney Church (excused absence), Mallory Eubanks (right ankle sprain), Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Mallory Pugh (right PCL sprain), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45), Havana Solaun (left knee chondral avulsion)

QUESTIONABLE: Kelsey Wys (right knee swelling)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Get the Offense Involved Early. With Francisca Ordega returning, the Spirit need to get here integrated back in early. Putting pressure on Seattle’s backline before the Reign score can really change the tempo of the match. Since Mallory Pugh is out, the frontline of Ordega, Estefania Banini, and Ashley hatch will need to come together quickly to avoid being shutout once again.

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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.

Andi SullivanAshley HatchEstefania BaniniEstelle JohnsonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageJim GabarraMeggie Dougherty HowardRebecca QuinnRose LavelleWhitney Church

After three weeks on the road, the Washington Spirit returned home to the Maryland SoccerPlex to take on the visiting Portland Thorns. One strike was all it took for the Thorns to take home all three points on a rainy Saturday night in Maryland.

For most of the evening, the Spirit had the better of the attack. But for the third straight game, Washington was unable to break the scoresheet and were shutout once again. In the 68th minute, Portland substitute Ellie Carpenter crashed hard to the net to finish a ball for her first ever NWSL goal, making her the youngest to ever score in the league.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Bledsoe; Smith, Church, Quinn, Dydasco; Dougherty Howard, Huster, Sullivan; Pugh, Hatch, Banini.

Whitney Church Shines at Center Back

In her three seasons for the Spirit, Whitney Church has struggled with the fast paced NWSL game. On Saturday night however, Church had one of her best games for the Spirit, anchoring the backline with Estelle Johnson out once again. While Church is not known for her speed, her positional awareness, ability to out jump players much taller than her, and her well weighted long balls have made her a key piece of this year’s backline.

“I saw what I expect to see from her. I’ve seen that in her for the last two to three years,” Gabarra said after the game. “She’s a tremendous defender and she always seems to be in the right place and that’s my expectation of her is to play games like that. I’m just glad she’s comfortable enough and secure enough now to be able to show everyone else.”

With Johnson out, the captain’s armband has been worn by Church. More of a quieter player in her first season, Church has stepped up and become a leader on the team. Alongside Johnson and Tori Huster, head coach Jim Gabarra considers Church to be one of the veteran leaders on the Spirit.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Whitney Church was presented the Spirit Squadron’s player of the match trophy following the game.

The Offense Goes Quiet Once Again

It has been over 350 minutes since the Spirit last scored a goal. On April 28, Francisca Ordega scored against the Chicago Red Stars in the 4th minute. Since then, the Spirit have played three full games without putting a goal up on the scoresheet. While the goalkeeping from the opposition has been good, the Spirit are just not getting it done. Washington ended up with four shots on goal, but most were right at Thorns goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom.

On Saturday night, the Spirit switched up the front three to try and get a spark going offensively. Ordega was sent to the bench and Estefania Banini moved up to the front line from the midfield. Alongside Banini were Mallory Pugh and Ashley Hatch. Ordega would eventually come in off the bench for Hatch, but was unable to deliver.

The Spirit will now welcome a winless Sky Blue team to the Plex on Wednesday night. Sky Blue has allowed 12 goals in just six games played this season. If the Spirit are going to break this goalless drought, it needs to come Wednesday night.

“I think we are getting the opportunities, we just need to put them away,” midfielder Andi Sullivan said. “We have great opportunities to break through and we just have got to have that final touch. I think it takes like 10 shots to make a goal so the floodgates are going to open soon, I’m sure.”

A Possible Rose Lavelle Return

According to head coach Jim Gabarra, midfielder Rose Lavelle could be available for Wednesday’s game against Sky Blue.

“We’re hopeful that Wednesday she’s available for selection.”

Lavelle, who has been out with a hamstring injury since August 2, was acquired in the dispersal draft from the Boston Breakers. If Lavelle is available on Wednesday, expect her to play very limited minutes off the bench. This isn’t the first time this season that Lavelle has been deemed almost ready to play so it will most likely be something that isn’t actually confirmed until Wednesday.

Next Up

The Spirit will return to action on Wednesday night to take on Sky Blue at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kickoff for the match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. After that, the Spirit will travel to Houston to take on the Dash on Sunday, May 27.

Andi SullivanEstefania BaniniEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageGame PreviewRebecca QuinnWhitney Church

The Washington Spirit and the North Carolina Courage will meet on Saturday evening for the second time this season. After a 4-2 defeat at home to North Carolina, Washington will now travel to Cary to take on the first place Courage.

Kick-Off

7:00 PM ET on Saturday, May 12, 2018

Location

Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina

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

Estelle Johnson is listed as questionable with a hamstring strain. She injured her hamstring during practice on Wednesday. While it is still possible that she plays, her effectiveness will be a question for the match. During practice on Wednesday, Whitney Church and Rebecca Quinn were paired together at the center back position.  

Injuries

OUT: 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

Win the midfield. North Carolina has one of the best midfields in the league. If the Spirit want to pick up a win on the road, they will have to improve the play of the midfield. With Estefania Banini returning and Rebecca Quinn expected to play on the backline, the midfield could look very different from weeks past. Expect Andi Sullivan, Tori Huster, and Banini to be the trio faced with stopping the high powered Courage midfield. Banini will help improve the offensive production of the midfield, something that has been lacking over the past month.

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Andi SullivanAubrey BledsoeEstefania BaniniEstelle JohnsonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageMallory PughMeggie Dougherty HowardRebecca Quinn

The Washington Spirit returned home on Saturday evening to take on the Chicago Red Stars. Both teams scored a goal in the first half to finish the match in a 1-1 draw.

Francisca Ordega opened the scoring in the fourth minute to put Washington ahead 1-0. Ordega has now scored in three straight games. The Red Stars would get one back in the 20th minute off of a rebound that fell right to Alyssa Mautz. Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe made a play on the original ball but collided with Chicago forward Sam Kerr and was unable to recover for the second chance.

Jordan Small | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Bledsoe; Smith, Church, Johnson, Dydasco; Dougherty Howard, Sullivan, Huster; Ordega, Hatch, Pugh.

Aubrey Bledsoe Saves a Point Again

Last week, Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe stopped a penalty kick which secured a point for Washington. The save also was voted save of the week. Coming into the game against the Red Stars, it was expected that Bledsoe would play a big role in stopping Australian international and 2017 NWSL MVP Sam Kerr from scoring.

The biggest save of the day came just four minutes before halftime. Sam Johnson headed a Chicago corner kick on goal, forcing a save out of Bledsoe. On the goal line, Bledsoe extended out and got her fingertips to the ball, parrying it away. While the goal was not scored, play was stopped because Bledsoe’s lip was bleeding, a result of colliding with defender Caprice Dydasco on the play. The Spirit Squadron awarded Bledsoe the Player of the Match trophy after the game.

Another Week, Another Ordega Goal

Three straight weeks sees Francisca Ordega’s name on the scorers sheet for the Spirit. This week forward Mallory Pugh played a ball across the end line that Ordega was able to tuck home at the back post. The partnership between the two is flourishing at just the right time. At the beginning of the year, it was unclear if Ordega would make the starting XI for the squad. With Estefania Banini being away with national team commitments, Ordega really stepped up. It is hard to imagine Ordega leaving the lineup any time soon.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Ordega and Pugh celebrate Ordega’s first half goal.

Rebecca Quinn Remains Out

For the third straight week, rookie Rebecca Quinn remains out because of an injury to the TFL muscle in her hip. While she was listed as questionable and did make the 18 player roster, Quinn did not see the field. The midfield has found its groove as of late with Tori Huster, Meggie Dougherty Howard, and Andi Sullivan. It would be nice to have Quinn back though to play on the backline alongside Estelle Johnson as a center back.

Next Up

Washington will travel to Utah to take on the Utah Royals for the first time in club history. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on May 5.

Estefania BaniniGame Day CoverageGame Preview

The Washington Spirit will return home to face the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday evening.

Kick-Off

7:00 PM ET on Saturday, April 28, 2018

Location

Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland.

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Tori Huster, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega

Noteworthy

Estefania Banini and Yanara Aedo have returned to the active roster. Both were representing their countries, Argentina and Chile respectively, at the 2018 Copa America Femenina. With their return, Mallory Eubanks was released from the roster.

Injuries

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

QUESTIONABLE: Rebecca Quinn (right TFL muscle strain)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Keeping Sam Kerr in check. After helping Australia qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Kerr returns to the NWSL and will make her Red Stars debut. The 2017 NWSL MVP was part of a monster draft day trade that sent her from Sky Blue to Chicago. If the Spirit want to come away with a point, keeping Kerr contained will be vital. Also, the Spirit will need to score quickly again and protect it because no lead is safe with Kerr on the other side of the pitch.

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Andi SullivanEstefania BaniniGame Day CoverageJim GabarraJoanna LohmanMeggie Dougherty HowardRebecca Quinn

The Washington Spirit opened up the 2018 NWSL season on Saturday night against the Seattle Reign at Memorial Stadium. Two first-half goals from Seattle sunk Washington in game one, 2-1.

Reign forward Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring in the 7th minute off of a free kick. With 10 minutes to go before halftime, former Spirit forward Jodie Taylor doubled the lead for the home team to send the Reign into the locker room up 2-0. A goal from Joanna Lohman in the 68th minute brought the Spirit within one, but that would be all Washington could do to comeback.

Defensive Mistakes Cost Washington

Rookie Rebecca Quinn was to make her NWSL debut on Saturday against the Reign but due to visa issues, she will have to wait another week to make that happen. Instead, Whitney Church slid into her spot in the center of the defense alongside Estelle Johnson. While Church did not have a particularly poor performance, the partnership between Church and right back Taylor Smith struggled.

“I think the biggest thing is you’ve got Whit and Taylor who haven’t played together and they’ve only had a couple of training sessions and a couple of games,” head coach Jim Gabarra said after the match. “Then you’ve got Rapinoe out there to deal with so it’s not a good cocktail. But you’ve got to get through it and you’ve got to find that relationship and it takes time for those.”

The second goal highlighted the Spirit’s struggle defensively, with a poor touch from Smith on the offensive end leading to an easy cross in from Rapinoe.

“I thought we were a little unlucky on the second goal,” Gabarra said. “I mean Taylor has a great read, she wins the ball but it goes right to them and they play it in behind her so it was a little unfortunate.”

Joanna Lohman Scores in Return From ACL Injury

In the 2017 season opener, Joanna Lohman’s season was over after just 22 minutes. Lohman tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament against the North Carolina Courage in April of last year. Almost a year later, Lohman returned to the pitch as a sub for Tori Huster at halftime. With 23 minutes gone in the second half, Lohman proved that she was officially back. Off of an assist from Estefania Banini, Lohman spun her way through the middle of the box and rifled a shot past goalkeeper Michelle Betos.

“I think it was such an amazing feeling, just getting back on the field,” Lohman said postgame. “I’ve really missed playing the game and obviously I’ve missed being with the Washington Spirit. They’ve been so supportive of me through my injury. I wasn’t fully expecting to play tonight, I think Jim and I’ve been talking about slowly getting me back into the games, so I was so excited to get in at halftime and try to make a difference and bring some energy. I was happy to do that and to get a goal was just an icing on the cake.”

Andi Sullivan Impresses in NWSL Debut

Rookie midfielder Andi Sullivan made her debut for the Washington Spirit on Saturday evening. The Lorton, VA native had three shots, two of which were on target in 90 minutes of work. Sullivan seemed to fit in seamlessly into the Spirit lineup alongside Tori Huster and Meggie Dougherty Howard.

“I thought she was a rock in their for us,” Gabarra said. “She was very reliable. I think she’s confident enough to withstand the tactics and professionalism that was thrown at her tonight. She just kept bouncing back and fought through it so it was really good to see that she’s at a level that she can play in this league and excel.”

Next Up

The Spirit will return home to face the Orlando Pride on March 31 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. This match will be the Lifetime Game of the Week and will kick off at 3:30 p.m.

“Well, home opener is always an exciting time,” Gabarra said. “I think we’ll have a little bit different opportunity to game plan against Orlando now that we’ve got a game on tape. We can also evaluate our play and make some refinements and clean up some details and some of those working relationships and get to know each other a little better.”