Ashley HatchAubrey BledsoeGame Day Coveragesam staab

On Saturday night, the Washington Spirit returned home to take on the Houston Dash. The Spirit once again separated themselves into first place with a point from a 0-0 draw. Aubrey Bledsoe picked up her fifth shutout in the draw as the team extended their unbeaten run to seven games.

Defense comes up big in shutout

The Spirit were forced to make two changes along the backline last night as McKenzie Berryhill came in for Paige Nielsen at center back and Dorian Bailey at left back for Tegan McGrady. Nielsen was out with an excused absence while McGrady was out with a thigh injury. Both played well and the whole back line kept the Dash attack at bay. Berryhill and Bailey, alongside back line regulars in Sam Staab and Tori Huster, did not allow a shot on target. They will have their hands full next week when North Carolina comes to town.

Spirit honor Joanna Lohman with halftime ceremony

For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Spirit have retired a player’s number. Joanna Lohman, who retired just before the start of the 2019 season, had her number 15 retired on Saturday night. The Spirit honored her at halftime with a video message from the front office and owner Bill Lynch also spoke. After the game, a video message from the team was played just after the final whistle. Lohman will now work with the team in an ambassador role.

Photo by Kelley Piper
Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

Unbeaten streak extended to seven games

Saturday night, the Washington Spirit extended their unbeaten run to seven games. In that time, they have four wins and four shutouts. While last night wasn’t their best performance, the 0-0 shutout was enough to keep things going for the league leading Spirit. Houston sat very deep throughout the game and made it very difficult for the Spirit to get anything going offensively. Ashley Hatch had the best chance of the game in the second half but her header went just wide of the post. If the Spirit are going to keep the streak alive, they will have to start putting it in the back of the net, especially against North Carolina next week.

Next Up

The Washington Spirit will continue their homestand as they welcome North Carolina to town next weekend. The Spirit will host Teacher Appreciation Night on June 29 and kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Game Day CoverageMallory Pughmegan crossonsam staab

The 2019 NWSL season kicked off on Saturday night as the Washington Spirit played host to Sky Blue FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

The Washington Spirit opened up play at home on Saturday afternoon as they welcomed Sky Blue to the Maryland SoccerPlex. After a scoreless first half, the Spirit put away two goals to pick up their first win of the season. Rookie Sam Staab scored the opener in the 59th minute and Megan Crosson picked up her first goal for Washington in stoppage time. Aubrey Bledsoe got the shutout in goal to lead the Spirit to a 2-0 win.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit Starting XI: Bledsoe; McGrady, Staab, Nielsen, Huster; DiBiasi, Sullivan, Dougherty-Howard; Matthews, Hatch, Pugh

Defense stands strong in opener

The backline for the Spirit consisted of two rookies and two others who had played next to no time on defense. Sam Staab and Tegan McGrady made their Spirit debuts on Saturday night after being drafted by Washington in January’s draft. Paige Nielsen, who has said she feels most comfortable at center back, played forward for most of her professional career before coming to D.C. this offseason.Then there is Tori Huster who has played in the Spirit midfield for years now but excelled at right back on Saturday night.

“I think we are doing really well,” Staab said after the game. “[McGrady] and I have actually known each other for a while but the rest of us it was just like a new season. We talk really well, communicate across the line and mesh really great during the game and just talk a lot. It feels great so far and it’s only the first game so just keep going up from there.

While this group does not have a lot of experience together, they looked put together and managed a shutout in the first game of the season. Sure, they were playing Sky Blue but they still did shutdown the attack for the visitors. Aubrey Bledsoe also did her part in goal, picking up two saves while also defending well on a six corner kick opportunities for Sky Blue. The Spirit will really be put to the test when they travel to Utah next week.

Mal Pugh impresses in season debut

Unlike most players in the NWSL, Mallory Pugh has the advantage of already playing in a number of games this season with the USWNT. She seemed to be in good form and it showed on Saturday. Her and Cheyna Matthews combined on a number of plays in the first half and were just a step away from having the opening goal of the season.

Late in the second half, Pugh drove towards the endline before crossing it in to Megan Crosson for the second goal of the game. This was a product of Pugh dropping a number of quality crosses into the box, but that time, they finally connected. It’s unfortunate that Pugh will miss a good portion of the next couple of months as she travels with the USWNT in preparation for the World Cup before heading to France.

“Yeah, I mean there was really only like a couple people in the box every attack,” Pugh said. “It was just something was telling me to whip it in and [Crosson] was like good thing I finished that one because the first one she didn’t finish. It was a great goal. She committed her run and I’m glad she scored it.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit Megan Crosson celebrates after scoring her first goal of the 2019 season.

Next Up

The Washington Spirit will now travel to Utah to face the Royals on Saturday, April 20. Kickoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET.

Arielle ShipAubrey BledsoeFrancisca OrdegaGame Day Coverage

The Washington Spirit hosted Sky Blue in the season finale this weekend. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday evening, but after hours of a lightning delay, the game was eventually postponed until the next morning. On Sunday morning, the two teams would score late in the second half to finish with a 1-1 draw.

Starting XI: Bledsoe; Dydasco, Church, Clark, Crosson; Lohman, Dougherty Howard; McCarty, Solaun, Farquharson; Ordega Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

Arielle Ship returns with first goal of 2018

After picking up her first minutes of the season last weekend at Audi Field, Arielle Ship made her second appearance on Sunday. Ship came in for Cali Farquharson in the 58th minute. Ship made an immediate impact as she brought pace to the game and was working well up front with Francisca Ordega.
That partnership paid off in the 71st minute.

It had been 765 minutes since Washington last put the ball into the back of the net on July 7th against Orlando. Ship broke that streak with her first goal of the season. The original shot was taken by Ordega which Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was able to stop. The rebound fell to Ship, whos first shot was also stopped by Sheridan. Ship then collected her own rebound and put it home for her first goal of the year.

Arielle Ship celebrates her first goal of the season. Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

Aubrey Bledsoe sets saves record

All season, Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe has had the difficult task of stopping a lot of shots. On Sunday morning, the story was no different. Bledsoe was forced to make five saves on six shots. She also was forced to stand in for a penalty attempt, but She Groom’s shot hit the crossbar. It was the fourth save of the morning that was the biggest one for Bledsoe. That save racked up her season total to 108 which pushed her past Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher for the most in NWSL history in a single season.

Aubrey Bledsoe dives while facing Shea Groom’s penalty kick. Groom’s kick would go off the crossbar. Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

Spirit start three National Team Replacement players in final game

With the Spirit having eight players gone with their national teams for the FIFA Break, Washington signed five players to National Team Replacement contracts. Zoe Clark, Megan Crosson, Tiffany McCarty and Alexa Newfield, and goalkeeper Morgan Ruhl all were in the lineup on Sunday. Clark, Crosson, and McCarty were featured in the starting XI while Newfield came on as a sub in the second half.

Game Day CoverageGame Preview

For the first time in NWSL history, a match is being played in Washington, D.C. The Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns will face off at Audi Field, the new home of D.C. United. United played their first game in the stadium back in July, and now it is time for the Spirit to get their crack at the brand new stadium.

Kick-Off

8:00 PM ET on Saturday, August 25, 2018

Location

Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Estelle Johnson, Rebecca Quinn, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Rose Lavelle, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Mallory Pugh; Ashley Hatch

Noteworthy

This week, Jill Ellis announced her roster for the upcoming matches against Chile. Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh were both among those chosen for the two friendlies. Also being called up for international friendlies were Andi Sullivan, Mallory Eubanks, and Ashley Hatch. That trio will represent the U.S. at the under 23 level in the Nordic Cup. Rebecca Quinn will also represent Canada’s national team in upcoming friendlies against Brazil. Finally, it was announced on Saturday that goalkeeper Didi Haracic was called up to the Bosnian National Team.

Injuries

OUT: Estefania Banini (right MCL sprain), Tori Huster (left ankle inflammation), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Tiffany Weimer (left knee Baker’s cyst – D45), Kelsey Wys (right knee meniscus scope) QUESTIONABLE: Francisca Ordega (left foot contusion)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Be smart defensively. It’s no secret that the Spirit have struggled offensively lately. But instead of beating a dead horse on that topic, it’s best if the Spirit focus on the other problematic area of their game. Against Utah on Wednesday, the Spirit once again had a strong performance from their goalkeeper, this time it being Didi Haracic, and yet still made a mess in front of her. The Spirit need to come together as a group and play strong in front of their goalkeeper to ensure that they have a chance in this game.

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Game Day CoverageGame Preview

After being off last weekend, the Washington Spirit return to action to take on the Houston Dash. It will be the last meeting between these two teams for the season. In the last meeting between these two sides, Houston took home the 1-0 victory.

Kick-Off

8:30 PM ET on Friday, August 17, 2018

Location

BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Rebecca Quinn, Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church; Taylor Smith, Andi Sullivan, Mallory Pugh, Rose Lavelle, Caprice Dydasco; Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega

Noteworthy

The Spirit held media day at Audi Field on Wednesday. During that time, members of the media were able to see the field and facilities where the game will take place. The players were also able to get an up close look at where they will be playing in just over a week.

Injuries

OUT: Estefania Banini (right MCL sprain), Tori Huster (left heel bruise), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Tiffany Weimer (left knee Baker’s cyst– D45), Kelsey Wys (right knee meniscus scope)
QUESTIONABLE: None
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Give Ashley Hatch support. So often this season, the ball would get up to the front where Ashley Hatch would be waiting. She would get the ball and then be forced to take on two or three defenders all on her own because there would be no one up there to support her. This has made it extremely difficult for the Spirit to score or even create dangerous opportunities. If they want to get in good positions to win, they need to score. If they want to score, getting Hatch some help up front is a necessity.

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Caprice DydascoGame Day CoverageGame PreviewTaylor Smith

The Washington Spirit will head out to Utah to take on the Royals in a midweek game. After falling to Seattle 2-0 on Sunday, the Spirit will look to pick up their first win since May 23.

Kick-Off

10:00 PM ET on Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Location

Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Rebecca Quinn, Estelle Johnson, Tori Huster; Taylor Smith, Andi Sullivan, Mallory Pugh, Rose Lavelle, Caprice Dydasco; Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega

Noteworthy

On Sunday evening, the Spirit took on the Seattle Reign. While they lost 2-0, Mallory Pugh made her return to the pitch. Pugh, Lavelle, and Sullivan were the three substitutes for the Spirit and played together for one of the few times all season.

Injuries

OUT: Estefanía Banini (right MCL sprain), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Tiffany Weimer (left knee Baker’s cyst – D45), Kelsey Wys (right knee meniscus scope)

QUESTIONABLE: None

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Get Dydasco and Smith going. With the Spirit now experimenting with a 3-5-2 formation,  Smith and Dydasco are now getting more involved in the offense. If they can combine with Pugh and Lavelle, that could be a very dangerous combination.

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Game Day CoverageGame PreviewMallory Pugh

The NWSL returns to action on Sunday night after being off for the Tournament of Nations. Washington will head out to Seattle to take on the Reign in the final game of the season between these two.

Kick-Off

9:00 PM ET on Sunday, August 5, 2018

Location

UW Medicine Pitch at Memorial Stadium in Seattle, Washington

Projected Starting Lineup

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

Noteworthy

For the first time since her injury at the end of May, Mallory Pugh has been taken off of the injury report. Pugh first was injured against the Houston Dash on Sunday, May 27 when she collided with Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell. After the game on July 21 against Houston, head coach Jim Gabarra said there was a possibility that Pugh could see time against the Reign.

Injuries

OUT: Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Estefanía Banini (right MCL sprain), Tiffany Weimer (left knee Baker’s cyst – D45), Kelsey Wys (right knee meniscus scope)

QUESTIONABLE: Arielle Ship (right knee ACL recovery)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Start out strong. The last time the Spirit played in Seattle, Megan Rapinoe put the Reign ahead just seven minutes into the match. Just 28 minutes later, Jodie Taylor doubled the lead with the help of Rapinoe. Joanna Lohman was able to get one back in the second half for the Spirit but it was too little too late. If the Spirit want to break their five plus year winless streak in Seattle, it has to start in the first half with a good, solid performance.

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Aubrey BledsoeCaprice DydascoGame Day CoverageRebecca QuinnTaylor SmithTori Huster

On Saturday night, the Washington Spirit and Houston Dash were set to face off at the Maryland SoccerPlex, but Mother Nature had other plans.

According to the National Weather Service, more than six inches of rain fell in the area on Saturday. That caused flooding on the field and the referees deemed it unplayable. The game was rescheduled and played on Sunday morning with a 10 a.m. local kickoff.

“You tailor your whole day towards the game,” Spirit defender Rebecca Quinn said. “I know a couple of the players were having caffeine at a little later hours of the night so it was a bit tough getting to bed yesterday. I think it’s fun having it at our normal training so we’re normally ready to go at 10 a.m. in the morning so that wasn’t too bad.”

Right from the get go, the pace was flying. Francisca Ordega nearly scored in the first minute but Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell was able to keep it out. In the third minute, Dash forward Rachel Daly got on the end of a Sofia Huerta ball and put it past an on rushing Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.

Rachel Daly scores the lone goal of the game, beating Aubrey Bledsoe and Tori Huster. Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

Spirit find success in 3-5-2 formation

Washington continued to press for much of the game but never found the back of the net. In total, the Spirit managed nine shots on goal and 11 corner kicks, both season highs. Much of that success had to do with the formation that head coach Jim Gabarra had them playing. A 3-5-2 with Quinn, Estelle Johnson, and Tori Huster in the back and Taylor Smith and Caprice Dydasco as wingbacks on the outside provided Washington with the attacking presence that has been missing for most of the season.

“I think that’s always a positive with our wingbacks, as you would call it, getting forward,” Quinn said. “Especially with Taylor getting a lot of options end line. She gave us some really good chances in both halves. I think that’s the main positive coming out of that formation. Then as well, me and Tori were able to get into some good spaces to distribute into our forwards as well.”

Taylor Smith plays a ball into the attack during the second half. Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

Field conditions greatly improved on Sunday

Despite the dumping of water that occurred on Saturday, the field managed to drain fairly well overnight. With rain showers stopping around midnight, the field was able to dry out to become playable on Sunday. There did not appear to be any standing water inside the lines, unlike Saturday night. Saturday evening, there were huge puddles stretching from one 18 yard box to the other.

“Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised coming out here this morning with how it drained out,” Quinn said. “I was a little bit skeptical when they were saying it only took an hour but I guess they were right, the grounds crew. It wasn’t bad at all, there weren’t any puddles. I was pretty happy with it.”

Starting XI: Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Estelle Johnson, Rebecca Quinn; Caprice Dydasco, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Estefania Banini, Andi Sullivan, Taylor Smith; Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega Jordan Small | Follow Your Spirit

Next Up

The NWSL will take next weekend off as the United States plays host to Japan, Australia, and Brazil in the Tournament of Nations. When action gets back underway on August 5, the Spirit will head out to the west coast to take on the Seattle Reign. That will be the first of three games the Spirit will play on the road.