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.

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.

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.

Stream

Go90.com

Twitter

Follow @spiritcoverage and @jols98 for game updates and to keep your timeline to date with our Washington Spirit coverage on Twitter.

Aubrey BledsoeDiana MathesonEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageRebecca QuinnTori Huster

The Washington Spirit traveled to Utah to face off with the Royals for the first time in franchise history. Utah came out on top with a 2-0 victory.

Kelley O’Hara opened the scoring in the 7th minute when she snuck in behind the Spirit defense and beat Aubrey Bledsoe. Utah midfielder Diana Matheson doubled the scoring in the 66th when she beat Estelle Johnson to the ball. She then chipped Bledsoe for her first goal of the season.

Offense Struggles

Washington’s offense struggled mightily on Saturday evening. It was the first time all season that the Spirit failed to score a goal. Much of that had to do with the fact that the Spirit only managed to get one shot on goal of the 12 shots taken on the day. After being one of the top teams when it comes to shots taken this season, the Spirit were unable to muster much when it came to quality chances in the final third. Much of that had to do with the poor touches and passes that Washington had throughout the game. With the Spirit being shut out, Francisca Ordega’s goal scoring streak has officially come to an end.

Tori Huster Subbed Out Early

Tori Huster was subbed out after 36 minutes of play on Saturday. It did not appear as if she was injured. Rebecca Quinn replaced her, earning her first minutes since week 2 against Orlando. Huster did not seem to be playing her best soccer from the start but it was really problem as a whole. It is unclear if it was a tactical decision based on her play or an attempt to spark the rest of the team. Regardless, the play of the team did not appear to get much better when Quinn entered.

Next Up

The Washington Spirit will continue the road trip when they take on North Carolina on Saturday, May 12. That match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:00 p.m. ET. It will be the third time since March that these two teams have met and the second time this regular season. In the first regular season matchup, the Spirit fell 4-2 at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

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.

Caprice DydascoEstelle JohnsonPosition PreviewsRebecca QuinnTaylor SmithWhitney Church

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.

The Group

#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

Expectations

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.”

Next Up

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.

Alyssa KleinerAndi SullivanArielle ShipAshley HatchAubrey BledsoeBriana ScurryCheyna WilliamsDiDi HaracicEstelle JohnsonHavana SolaunJim GabarraJoanna LohmanJordan SmallKelsey WysMallory PughPodcastPreaseasonRebecca QuinnRose LavelleSchuyler DeBreeShelina ZadorskySpirit SquadronStephanie LabbeTaylor SmithTori HusterWhitney Church

Joanna Lohman smiles at ref

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!

Jordan: @Jols98

Tim: @TimLawson21

Follow Your Spirit: @SpiritCoverage