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.

Aubrey BledsoeCali FarquharsonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageGame PreviewMallory Eubanks

After three weeks on the road, the Washington Spirit will return home to take on the Portland Thorns. This will be the second meeting of the season for these teams. In the first matchup in Portland, Oregon, the two teams tied 1-1 on a first half goal from either side.

Kick-Off

7:00 PM ET on Saturday, May 19, 2018

Location

Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland

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

Forward Cali Farquharson has been placed on the 45-day disabled list. Farquharson played in just one game for the Spirit so far in 2018, racking up in a total of eight minutes. In a corresponding move, the Spirit have signed 2018 draft pick Mallory Eubanks to a professional contract. Eubanks has appeared in three games for the Spirit in 2018, playing 79 minutes in total. She was previously under contract as a National Team Replacement Player.

Injuries

OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), 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

Score. The past two games, the Washington Spirit have been shutout. They now have scored 7 goals in seven games while allowing 11 goals. Portland has scored 11 goals in eight games played. The last time these two teams played, Francisca Ordega opened the scoring in the 37th minute, but a penalty kick goal in stoppage time of the first half tied it up for the Thorns. With Aubrey Bledsoe holding it down on the backline, one or two goals should be good enough for at least a point.

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.

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.

Andi SullivanAshley HatchAubrey BledsoeCaprice DydascoFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageMallory PughMeggie Dougherty HowardRebecca Quinn

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.

Next Up

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.

Arielle ShipAshley HatchCali FarquharsonCheyna WilliamsFrancisca OrdegaMallory PughPosition Previews

With the 2018 season beginning on Saturday, Follow Your Spirit brings you a break down of each position group on the Washington Spirit. Finally, the forwards.

The Group

#17 – Cali Farquharson

  • Age: 24
  • Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

#33 – Ashley Hatch

  • Age: 22
  • Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona

#14 – Francisca Ordega

  • Age: 24
  • Hometown: Gboko, Nigeria

#11 – Mallory Pugh

  • Age: 19
  • Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado

#2 – Arielle Ship

  • Age: 22
  • Hometown: Westlake Village, California

#88 – Tiffany Weimer

  • Age: 33
  • Hometown: Bridgeport, Connecticut

Expectations

This will be a very interesting year for the Washington Spirit forward corps. After a down year offensively, the Spirit will need more production out of the forwards for the playoffs to be an option. Much like the midfielders, the personnel on the field will greatly depend on what formation is being played.

It is believed that Washington will begin the season playing in a 4-3-3. With that being said, it is most likely going to be Ashley Hatch, midfielder/forward Estefania Banini, and Mallory Pugh on the front line. Hatch gives the Spirit some height up front while Banini and Pugh bring the distribution and goal scoring abilities to the table. Much like in the preseason finale, Francisca Ordega will most likely be the go-to forward coming off the bench for head coach Jim Gabarra.

This lineup will also depend on national team camps. US head coach Jill Ellis has called up Hatch and Pugh for two April friendlies against Mexico. Arielle Ship will start the season on the 45-day disabled list and Cheyna Williams will take the year off because of maternity leave.

Player to Watch

In mid-January, the Spirit acquired Hatch from North Carolina. During the offseason, Hatch spent time with Melbourne City FC of the Australian W-League. Her team ended up winning the W-League title before she returned to the U.S. for preseason with Washington.

“My time in Australia was great,” Hatch said. “It was good to get more games in, more minutes and more touches on the ball just to stay fit and get more game experience. It was good to just progressing and hopefully, that will roll over into the season.”

In 2017, Hatch won the NWSL Rookie of the Year crown. She won the award after tying a league record for most goals by a rookie (7),

“Last year was a great season, I learned a lot but I still feel like there’s a lot more to learn and to improve as a player,” Hatch said. “It’s only my second year as a professional so I’m excited to come here, play with the Spirit, and hopefully help them improve from last season.

Next Up

Washington will open up against the Seattle Reign on Saturday, March 24. Go90.com will have a stream of the game with kickoff coming at 10 p.m. ET.

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.