Francisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageJim GabarraStephanie LabbeTori Huster

For the first time this season, the Washington Spirit entered a match on a two-game unbeaten streak. After a 1-1 draw in Chicago, the Spirit returned home to host the 4th place Portland Thorns in front of 4,319 fans at the Maryland SoccerPlex. A goal in the 19th minute from Francisca Ordega would be all Washington would need to pick up three points in a 1-0 victory.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Labbé; Johnson, Church, Zadorsky, Kallman; Dougherty Howard, Huster, Mewis; Williams, Ordega, Solaun

Ordega would notch her team-leading fourth goal of the year on a highlight reel play. The Nigerian international picked the pocket of Thorns midfielder Allie Long just inside the Portland side of half field. After breaking past Long, Ordega then went on to twist and turn the Thorns’ backline. Washington would get on the board as Ordega rocketed a shot past the outstretched arms of Portland goalkeeper Adriana Franch.

“Franny is extremely physical, she’s very fast, and she’s done a very good job of getting in behind the line,” Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra said after the game. “She’s picked up her game, her movement off the ball and her ability to press in an organized fashion. She’s been rewarded with starts and minutes and goals.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
The Spirit celebrate after Ordega’s goal in the 19th minute.

This weekend’s goal was an extra special one for Ordega. On June 25, 2015, Ordega’s sister Elizabeth tragically passed away. Two years later, Ordega uses her sister’s memory to inspire her and continue to get better.

“I’m like, if I can play my best today and score, definitely I’m going to dedicate the goal to her. I have to do [well] so she can be proud of me and [I can] make myself happy,” Ordega said. “I keep dreaming of her, she motivated me a lot. The only thing that will make her happy, wherever she is, is just for me to be happy.”

The shutout marked the second in three games for the Spirit. Over the three-game span, the Spirit have scored three goals while allowing just one, a penalty kick to Chicago’s Christen Press. As the season hits the halfway mark, the defense for the Spirit has become much more solid.

“I think we did a very good job of team defending and understanding zones and lines,” Gabarra said. “It started last game in Chicago and I think it got a little bit better tonight. But it’s something that comes from playing together, the same group of players and getting an understanding defensively of each other.”

For the first time all season, Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé had a very quiet game, something that she welcomed.

“That was awesome,” Labbé said. “I can’t even remember having to make a dive at all in that game so that was great.”

The victory also marked the return of midfielder Tori Huster, who had been sidelined for four games with a right quad injury. While she might not have mad it onto the stat sheet, the impact of Huster’s game was noticeable to those watching the game. The midfield was able to effectively shut down the star-studded Portland offense.

“I really wanted her back last game,” Gabarra said. “Chicago’s got one of the better midfields and Portland’s got probably one of the best midfields in the league. To have Tori’s experience and her bite and ball winning abilities in there was huge for us. I think she was probably not as sharp as she had been when she had been usually playing.”

Riding a three-game point streak, the Spirit will travel to Boston to take on the struggling Breakers. The match is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 1. Boston will travel to Houston to take on the Dash on Wednesday of this week.

Caprice DydascoCheyna WilliamsFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageStephanie Labbe

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.

Francisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageJim GabarraStephanie Labbe

After scoring just one goal in the first three games of the season, the Washington Spirit attack opened up for four goals in a 4-3 win over Sky Blue on Saturday night. The win moved the Spirit up the table from 9th place to 7th place at the end of Saturday.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Labbé; Johnson, Church, Zadorsky; Solaun, Huster, Dougherty Howard, Sigvardsen, Kallman; Ship, Ordega

Francisca Ordega opened up the scoring for the Spirit in the 6th minute off of a pass from midfielder Line Sigvardsen. She netted her second goal of the game in the 56th minute, which would be the eventual game winner. Ordega would also add an assist on Havana Solaun’s goal in the 34th minute and force an own goal from Sky Blue.

“To see her individual effort on at least two of the goals was pretty awesome,” Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé said in the post game media scrum. “You could see that she was a big threat to them and they were having trouble dealing with her strength and her speed. It’s fun to see a player have those games and you know, it doesn’t happen all the time, but to see a player kind of on their game and just feeling it, I think it’s really fun to watch.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Ordega celebrates with her teammates after one of her two goals on the evening.

Despite giving up three goals in the match, the Spirit held on to a one-goal lead for the last 20 minutes. This was in part thanks to the play of veterans Labbé and defender Estelle Johnson.

“I think the experience back there made a huge difference keeping us calm,” head coach Jim Gabarra said after the game. “Also the whole team learned a valuable lesson in the Orlando match where I think we got a little frantic, we got a little over anxious going forward and we didn’t really keep our shape and really focus on defending. I think it’s great to have an experienced player like Estelle [Johnson], who’s been through these many, many games and many situations where you’re trying to protect a one-goal lead.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Labbé punches the ball over the bar late in the game to preserve the 4-3 win over Sky Blue.

The outburst of scoring was a welcome sign, relieving some of the pressure on the backline. Labbé was proud of the performance, despite the team allowing three goals.

“It’s a big relief. I think, you know, it’s been a long time coming,” Labbé said. “We’ve been putting in a lot of work. The biggest thing is to get it at home. I think stepping out here today, we really wanted to score for our fans and give them something to cheer for and we gave them that four times today.”

The Spirit return to action next Saturday when they travel to the west coast for the first time this season to take on the Seattle Reign. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. EST. Seattle is coming off of a 2-2 tie in Portland. Soccer returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, May 20 as the Spirit play host to FC Kansas City.

Francisca OrdegaJoanna LohmanKatie StengelStephanie Labbe

The 2017 NWSL season is upon us and we couldn’t be more excited. The Spirit are coming of a heartbreaking 2016 season that ended with a loss in PKs at the NWSL Championship. After a lot of turnover, the Spirit are ready to prove themselves worthy of another chance at the title.

The video above and the podcast below go over Timothy Lawson’s “5 Bold Predictions” for the 2017 season. He went 1 for 5 last year and is hoping to do at least one better. Check out his predictions and let us know on Twitter which ones you think are too bold and which ones are achievable (@SpiritCoverage).

Francisca OrdegaPlayer Previews

As the 2017 NWSL season approaches, we will be rolling out profiles on the 2017 Washington Spirit roster.

Name: Francisca Ordega

Hometown: Gboko, Nigeria

Position: Forward

College: N/A

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Ordega in a preseason match vs. Duke on April 1, 2017.

Last season: Francisca Ordega played in 13 regular season matches, starting in 7 of those games. In the regular season, Ordega scored two goals and had one assist. She started in both postseason games, scoring the game-winning goal in extra time of the semifinal to send the Spirit to the NWSL Championship game.

2017 season: Ordega has seen limited action during the preseason as she recovers from a minor injury. If Ordega can stay healthy this season, she could be an elite super sub. Ordega’s speed could help her get into the starting XI, as she is faster than others on the frontline. Without a major international tournament drawing Ordega back to Nigeria, it will be interesting to see if she can keep her form all season.

Christine NairnCrystal DunnFrancisca OrdegaGame PreviewNWSL PlayoffsWhitney Church

The 2016 NWSL Championship is finally here. After many months of games and practices, it all comes down to just one game. The Washington Spirit will play the Western New York Flash on Sunday in Houston, Texas. In the two previous meetings this season, the Spirit beat the Flash 3-0 and tied 1-1.

After beating the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in the semifinals, the Spirit will look to hoist its first trophy in franchise history. Here are three things to look for on Sunday afternoon when the Spirit hit the pitch for the final.

1) Which back five will head coach Jim Gabarra “pull out of his hat” this week?

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Gabarra has put together many different lineups this season, rotating his backline from week to week. Last week, the back five was comprised of Kelsey Wys in goal, Ali Krieger at right back, Whitney Church and Shelina Zadorsky as the center backs and Caprice Dydasco at left back. With Wys getting the nod even when Stephanie Labbé returned from the Rio Olympics, it would be surprising if she wasn’t the one between the pipes tomorrow afternoon. Another spot where change be surprising would be the outside backs. Dydasco and Krieger have both shown that they can work up and down the field, contributing to the offense while still fulfilling their defensive responsibilities. The real question will be who Gabarra pulls out of his hat to start in the middle of the defense. It appears Megan Oyster has fallen out of Gabarra’s starting projections. With Church, Estelle Johnson, and Zadorsky getting most of the minutes over the past few weeks, the starters will most likely come from these three. Zadorsky and Johnson seem like the most logical combination because of the height and speed of the Flash offense.

While it is still unclear who will be in the starting lineup come Sunday, the defense remains confident and prepared for the potent Flash offense.

“We’ve seen them before, so we kind of have an idea of what they can bring and what they can do,” Church said. “I think the coaching staff has done a really good job at preparing us for that, and as long as we stick to our game plan and have each other’s backs, I think we’ll go really far in this game and we’ll have a really great shot.”

2) Who will step up and score for the Spirit this week?

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Eleven different Spirit players have scored this season, including forward Estefania Banini, who leads the team with five goals. While the defense has rotated, the forward line has changed even more. The same combination of forwards has not played together more than three games in a row this year. This has proven helpful for the forwards, as no one player has too much pressure placed upon them.

“For me, it’s great because teams don’t really know who to mark, who’s dangerous or what our capabilities are and I think that it’s gotten us to the point that we are in now,” forward Crystal Dunn said.

When facing such a high powered offense as the Flash , the Spirit has to be able to score multiple goals to keep up with WNY. Washington is ready for the challenge though, as everyone feels they are able to score. Ten of the Spirit’s 32 goals this season have come from midfielders or defenders, illustrating the team’s scoring depth.

“Everyone, everyone, I mean everyone, including the defenders, everyone is capable of scoring,” Francisca Ordega said. “It’s not just the forwards, anyone is capable of scoring. We are not relying on anybody, come Sunday, anyone can score. Hopefully we can score more goals come Sunday. Anybody can score, it might be our goalkeeper, she might score.”

3) The battle of the midfield will determine the outcome of the game.

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While much of the talk is on the Flash offense vs. the Spirit defense, one area of the game that is overlooked is the midfield battle. The trio of Tori Huster, Joanna Lohman and Christine Nairn is one of the top midfields in the league. They will be tested on Sunday as they go up against a gritty Flash midfield. If the Spirit can play through its midfield like it did against Red Stars in the semifinals, the Spirit improve its chances of winning the game.

“I think that we know our strengths and weaknesses and what we can do to be the best as a team,” Nairn said. “I think we are going to stick to our game plan in the midfield, as well as respect players like McCall Zerboni is the first one to come to mind, she’s a battler. But Jo Lohman is also a battler. So I think we match up well with their team. At the end of the day, it’s who is going to put their body on the line and who is going to perform to the best of their abilities.”

Kickoff for the NWSL Championship game will be 4 p.m. (5 p.m. on the east coast). The match will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports 1.

Ali KriegerChristine NairnDiana MathesonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageKelsey WysShelina Zadorsky

For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Spirit will be playing for the NWSL championship.

The Spirit beat the visiting Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in overtime in front of 4,249 at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Friday night. A goal from defender Ali Krieger opened the scoring for the Spirit, and with just under 10 minutes remaining in the overtime period, forward Francisca Ordega sealed the deal for Washington.

“We’ve wanted this for the past four seasons, and I think we deserved it all season,” Krieger said. “We’ve played so great. Obviously it was a team win, towards the end you could see that with the goals we scored, it was involving the entire team.”

Starting XI: Wys; Krieger ©, Church, Zadorsky, Dydasco; Nairn, Lohman, Huster; Banini, Ordega, Dunn
Starting XI: Wys; Krieger ©, Church, Zadorsky, Dydasco; Nairn, Lohman, Huster; Banini, Ordega, Dunn

Washington controlled the play from the start, but as halftime drew closer, had nothing to show for it. A corner kick from Krieger was played away by Red Stars defender Julie Johnston, but the ball was played right to Spirit defender Shelina Zadorsky. Zadorsky played a ball back into the box with her left foot, finding Krieger’s head at the back post for the goal in the 36th minute.

“I saw time and space and I knew we had a lot of runners in the box,” Zadorsky said. “I had thought maybe swing it in with my right foot, but I’m a little more confident with my left, so I took a touch back and tried to curl it into a dangerous space. Then all the credit to Ali for an incredible goal.”

Chicago would get a goal back in the 80th minute to tie the game up. Defender Casey Short played a ball over the Spirit backline and right onto the foot of on running forward Christen Press. The drama continued in stoppage time as Press beat Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, but hit the crossbar, sending the game into extra time.

“I was just hoping that my teammates, my center backs and everyone else were covering for me as they should,” Wys said. “I did what I could to put her off and then the soccer gods were with us, that was what I was thinking as soon as that hit the post. I was like they are with us tonight.”

Both teams traded chances in the opening half of extra time, but it wouldn’t be until the 111th minute that either team was able to break through. Combination play between midfielders Christine Nairn and Diana Matheson set up the Spirit in the box. Nairn sent the ball across the face of goal to a streaking Ordega at the back post. Ordega was able to just get a piece of it, directing it past Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

“I think I was just right there at the right time because when I saw how good the ball was like, ok let me just go in case the ball bounce back,” Ordega said. “I wasn’t expecting the ball at that spot, but it came out to be a successful goal.”

Ordega scores the game winning goal past Naeher.
Ordega scores the game winning goal past Naeher.

In its first ever home playoff game, the Spirit qualified to play in its first NWSL Final. After finishing in last place in year one, four years later, the Spirit will play either the Portland Thorns or WNY Flash for the league crown.

“It’s super rewarding because I remember that first season where we didn’t have the best opportunities and maybe we didn’t have the best season at all,” Krieger said. “Working off of that, building a team, building this core group that we’ve had, it’s a really incredible feeling to come that far and to see this team grow into what it is now. I’m just really proud of where we’ve come and now where we are headed. This game’s over now, we have to focus on the final.”

The Spirit will find out on Sunday which team it will face in the Final. The NWSL Championship will be played at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 5 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos

Christine NairnEstefania BaniniFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKatie StengelKelsey WysTori Huster

The Washington Spirit’s four game homestand came to a close Saturday night with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars. Thanks to goals from forwards Estefania Banini and Katie Stengel, the Spirit picked up its third 2-0 win in the last four games. For Banini, the goal marked her second of the season, while Stengel’s strike brought her goal total to three.

Starting XI: Wys; Kleiner, Johnson, Oyster, Dydasco; Nairn ©, Huster, Lohman; Banini, Ordega, Farquharson
Starting XI: Wys; Kleiner, Johnson, Oyster, Dydasco; Nairn ©, Huster, Lohman; Banini, Ordega, Farquharson

For the first time since June 18, 2016 against Orlando, the Spirit got on the board in the first half. Just 20 minutes into the game, Francisca Ordega received a pass at the top of the 18 yard box from Banini before laying it off for the Argentinian inside the box. Banini took a few touches before slotting it home past Red Stars goalkeeper Michele Dalton.

In the 73rd minute, Ordega made way for Stengel just before a corner kick. Stengel immediately made her presence known as she ran straight to Dalton and stood right in front of her for the corner kick. The substitution would pay off for the Spirit as Stengel rose up and headed home Christine Nairn’s corner kick. After driving many low corner kicks all night, Nairn was able to get air underneath the ball, making it easy for Stengel to redirect.

Eleven games into the 2016 NWSL season, the Spirit has now recorded seven shutouts. Despite losing two defenders in Ali Krieger and Shelina Zadorsky and starting goalkeeper Steph Labbé to national team duties, Washington has been able to piece together two shutouts in the past two games. The Spirit has leaned on defender Megan Oyster and goalkeeper Kelsey Wys to keep the backline together.

“I think we made a little bit more of a positive step integrating our newer players in the back, but there is still an awful lot to work on defensively,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “I think [Wys] makes a huge save there to keep us in the game.To get a clean sheet and win three of four home games, nine of twelve points makes me feel good, but there is always the next game and always got a lot of things we can be better at.”

The Spirit celebrate after Katie Stengel scored to put DC up 2-0
The Spirit celebrate after Katie Stengel scored to put DC up 2-0

After four straight games at home, the Spirit will head back on the road for the first time since June 10, 2016. This will be the first road test for the Spirit without its US and Canadian Olympic players.

“I think having four games at home has been really nice,” midfielder Tori Huster said. “We are not going to be used to going on the road. It’s been nice to be home with your fans, we are going to deal with a little bit of adversity on the road, I’m sure. I think if we can just stay tight as a group, if there is a little bit of adversity, I think when we stay tight, that’s going to solve a lot of the problems, no matter what the problem is.”

The Spirit will head to Kansas City next Saturday to face the defending NWSL champions. It will be the second matchup between the two teams in three weeks. In the previous meeting, the Spirit picked up three points in a 2-0 win. Kick off is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Kansas City (7 p.m. on the east coast).

photos by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos

Christine NairnEstelle JohnsonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKelsey WysTori Huster

After a disappointing loss to Sky Blue at home last week, the Spirit welcomed the defending NWSL champions FC Kansas City to town on Saturday nigh. The Spirit rebounded with two goals late in the game to snag three points from KC in a 2-0 win. Forward Francisca Ordega and midfielder Tori Huster both got on the scoresheet with a goal each.

Starting XI: Wys; Dydasco, Oyster, Johnson, Kleiner; Nairn, Huster, Lohman; Banini, Stengel, Farquharson
Starting XI: Wys; Dydasco, Oyster, Johnson, Kleiner; Nairn, Huster, Lohman; Banini, Stengel, Farquharson

The first half was fairly even from both sides, with neither team getting a really good chance on goal. Both teams used the first half as an adjustment period as many players were seeing their first minutes of the season.

For the Spirit, Estelle Johnson made her season debut at center back, while Caprice Dydasco made her second start of the season at outside back. In just her second game of the year, goalkeeper Kelsey Wys picked up her first win and posted her first shutout.

“I think Caprice, Estelle, everyone else who got a chance tonight did a great job. Just credit to the team as a whole,” Wys said. “We’ve worked on communication and being organized all week and being on the same page. I think we did the little things tonight we need to do in order to get the W.”

After coming on as a sub at halftime, Ordega quickly made her presence known. The Nigerian international used her speed to get at the back line of Kansas City. The Ordega substitution would prove to be a wise one in the 79th minute. After a scramble in the box, and many bodies on the ground, Ordega picked up a bouncing ball and tucked home the go-ahead goal past FCKC goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.

Just over five minutes later, Huster rocketed a rebound off of Christine Nairn’s corner kick to double the lead for the Spirit. The initial shot from Joanna Lohman was saved by Barnhart, but the rebound bounced back out into the box. The goal was Huster’s first since April 26, 2014 in a 1-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars.

“Definitely more often with my head do I score that than with my foot, but we were able to keep the ball alive,” Huster said. “Luckily it just popped right out to me and I tried to keep it high so that it was hard for anyone to clear it off the line or something like that.”

Lohman (left) and Huster (right) go up for a header that would ultimately lead to Huster's goal
Lohman (left) and Huster (right) go up for a header that would ultimately lead to Huster’s goal

After what head coach Jim Gabarra called a flat week against Sky Blue, the Spirit showed a bit more life against FCKC. While it took 79 minutes to finally break onto the scoresheet, the team looked dangerous in the attack in the second half. Despite missing three of the back five for the Spirit due to national team commitments, the defense was able to come together for its sixth shutout of the year.

“I think there was good energy, we were a lot more organized and we played more as a group,” Gabarra said. “With the previous match, it seemed like individuals and reacting instead of the typical movement that we’ve had.”

Next up, the Spirit will welcome the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, July 9 to the Maryland SoccerPlex for the first matchup of the season. The game will be the final game of a four game homestand for the Spirit. Chicago, who currently sits in fourth place, will be looking to end its two game losing streak. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

photos by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos

Estefania BaniniFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageStephanie Labbe

After a rough few weeks, the Washington Spirit got back on track Saturday night. Behind goals from forwards Estefania Banini and Francisca Ordega, Washington was able to grab three points from Orlando in a 2-0 win. The game marked the first major sporting event for an Orlando based team since the mass-shooting that took place at the Pulse night club in Orlando last Sunday.

Starting XI: Labbé; Krieger, Oyster, Zadorsky, Kleiner; Matheson, Huster, Nairn; Ordega, Banini, Dunn
Starting XI: Labbé; Krieger, Oyster, Zadorsky, Kleiner; Matheson, Huster, Nairn; Ordega, Banini, Dunn

The Spirit controlled the game from the start, dominating possession in the first half. The back line for Washington did a great job disrupting passes into the Orlando forwards, thwarting the attack for the Pride. While the defense did its job in the back, the midfield and forwards were relentless in the attack on the Pride back line. Orlando struggled to handle the pressure, and it would cost them in the 9th minute.

Banini received a cross into the box from left back Alyssa Kleiner, took a few touches, and slotted it home past Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. The Spirit had a number of chances in the first half, but were unable to convert until the 40th minute. A great individual effort by Ordega was rewarded, as the Nigerian international recorded her first goal of the season.

“When I saw the ball go into the net, it was like oh my god,” Ordega said, “I was so happy.”

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Ordega slots the ball past the Pride defense, for her first goal of the season, to put the Spirit up 2-0

Both teams had chances in the second half, but neither team was able to convert. With the shutout, that brings Spirit goalkeeper Steph Labbé’s shutout total to five for the season. That ties her with Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher for the league lead.

Prior to kickoff, both teams took part in honoring those who were affected by the tragedies in Orlando last weekend. The starters for both sides dawned ‘Orlando United’ t-shirts instead of the normal warmup jackets. Prior to the National Anthem, the stadium took part in a moment of silence. Then, just before kickoff, both starting elevens came together at midfield to take a picture in front of the logo with the half stars and stripes, half rainbow ribbon and the words “We Stand With Orlando.”

“Today, if you look in the crowd, there’s not Washington Spirit fans versus Orlando Pride fans,” Harris said. “Today we were just one collective group coming together to celebrate the lives of the people who didn’t make it out of Pulse and the victims’ families. Today was just about honoring them and taking a few moments out of our game to pay respect and be grateful that we are still here, getting to do what we love every day. It was more than just about us. It was about bringing this entire place together.”

The final piece in honoring Orlando came in the 49th minute. As the crowd began to rise and applaud, the game came to a halt on the field. For the whole minute, it became about so much more than just a soccer match. Fans, players and staff from both sides came together to honor those who lost their lives.

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The Spirit Squadron made a tifo in support of the Orlando community

“That was a special moment,” Labbé said. “It was extremely emotional. In those moments, you kind of just took a breath and your heart went to all the people who’s lives are affected. Family, friends, the whole LGBTQ community. The biggest thing was to kind of giving your love and your prayers to them and sending your heart there. Then just the refocus to get back into the game.”

After being on the road for over a month, the Spirit returned home to a record crowd of 5,750 people. With three more games remaining on this home stand, Washington will look to continue packing the Maryland SoccerPlex. Next Saturday, Sky Blue comes to the Plex for the first time this season. This will be the second of four matches between these two teams this season. The previous meeting was a 2-1 win for the Spirit.