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.

Game Day CoverageGame PreviewMaddie HusterTori Huster

In the only match during the FIFA International Break, the Washington Spirit will travel to New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC. Both teams are on losing streaks and are missing key pieces to their lineups.

Kick-Off

7:00 PM ET on Friday, June 8, 2018

Location

Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Joanna Lohman, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Tiffany Weimer, Ashley Hatch, Estefania Banini

Noteworthy

Maddie and Tori Huster will become the first pair of sisters to take the field for the same team in NWSL history. Maddie was signed earlier this week as a national team replacement player. She was drafted in the third round of the 2018 NWSL Draft and has spent time with the Spirit Reserves in recent years.

Injuries

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

QUESTIONABLE: Ashley Hatch (left hip flexor soreness), Tori Huster (right groin soreness), Kelsey Wys (right knee swelling)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Yanara Aedo (CHI), Rose Lavelle (USA), Francisca Ordega (NGA), Rebecca Quinn (CAN)

Key to Victory

Score. The Spirit have really struggled to score as of late and they are facing another snake bitten team. The last time out against Sky Blue, one goal was all the Spirit needed to get the victory. If they can get a goal despite a depleted front line, a win should be in order.

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Ashley HatchGame Day CoverageKelsey Wys

Five hours later than anticipated, the Washington Spirit hosted the Chicago Red Stars at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Chicago would walk away from the crazy Saturday afternoon turned late evening game with three points in a 2-0 victory.

Just as the National Anthem had finished playing and the players were getting ready for the pictures of the starting lineups, the horn sounded at the SoccerPlex, indicating lightning was detected in the area. As heavy storms rolled through, it was eventually determined that the game, originally scheduled for kick off at 3:50 p.m., would not be starting until 9:00 p.m.

Once the game got underway at its new time, the weather played a heavy hand in the match. The first goal scored by Chicago in the 25th minute was exactly the kind you would expect to see in a rainy, wet game like this one. The Red Stars’ Yuki Nagasato played a free kick in on goal and goalkeeper Kelsey Wys was unable to cleanly coral the ball before Sam Kerr found the back of the net.

“Obviously it’s pouring down rain, it’s hard to for any goalkeeper to hold a clean ball, especially one that’s being bent over a wall that I can’t see anything,” Wys said. “I should have just parried it away but my first priority was to keep it out of the back of the net. Then she followed it up and no one on our team was around.”

The Red Stars would double their lead in the 49th minute off of a well structured passing play in the box. Alyssa Mautz drove into the box before turning around and laying it off for a wide open Nagasato. Nagasato would then tuck it between Wys and the near post for the 2-0 lead.

Washington would be shut out for the fourth time this season. Ashley Hatch had the best chance of the game in stoppage time of the second half. Hatch made a nice run up the field but rookie goalkeeper Emily Boyd stood tall in her debut to earn the shutout.

“It’s hard to keep your concentration for a long time not having to do much,” Chicago head coach Rory Dames said. “I think that’s the sign of a good goalkeeper when you don’t have to do a lot and then you get called in late and she was able to come up big for us.”

The Spirit will be in action again on Friday night as they take on Sky Blue FC in New Jersey. Washington will be without the services of Rebecca Quinn and Franny Ordega who are representing their respective national teams in Canada and Nigeria. Kickoff for the Sky Blue match is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Francisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageGame PreviewMallory PughRebecca QuinnSchuyler DeBree

The Washington Spirit will return home on Saturday to take on the Chicago Red Stars in the Lifetime Game of the Week. In the first matchup between these two teams in late April, Francisca Ordega and Alyssa Mautz scored in a 1-1 draw.

Kick-Off

3:50 PM ET on Saturday, June 2, 2018

Location

Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Rebecca Quinn, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Mallory Eubanks, Ashley Hatch, Estefania Banini

Noteworthy

Rebecca Quinn and Francisca Ordega have been called up for their national teams in Canada and Nigeria respectively. Quinn will leave for camp with Canada at some point this week. Ordega has left the Spirit to travel to Nigeria for the FIFA Break. Schuyler DeBree has been signed as a National Team Replacement Player.

Injuries

OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Mallory Pugh (right knee swelling), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: Tori Huster (right groin soreness)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Francisca Ordega (NGA)

Key to Victory

Put Pressure On Early. The Chicago Red Stars gave up five goals against Orlando last weekend. The Red Stars will be missing goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and defender/midfielder Julie Ertz missing this week. This means the Spirit need to put the pressure on rookie goalkeeper Emily Boyd and the backline early, especially with Mallory Pugh and Francisca Ordega out for this weekend. If they can get a goal early and keep Sam Kerr quiet, a point or more just might be in their future.

Stream

Lifetime

Twitter

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Aubrey BledsoeCaprice DydascoEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageGame PreviewJim GabarraRebecca QuinnTaylor SmithWhitney Church

After a midweek win against Sky Blue at home, the Washington Spirit will head to Houston to take on the Dash. The Spirit will have a chance to move within four points of a playoff spot.

Kick-Off

8:00 PM ET on Sunday, May 27, 2018

Location

BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas

Projected Starting Lineup

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

Noteworthy

With this being the third game in eight days for Washington, it is possible that the Spirit will have a very different looking lineup against the Dash. Head coach Jim Gabarra had mentioned after the Sky Blue game that the defense could see some different looks to get some players rest, specifically the outside backs of Caprice Dydasco and Taylor Smith. However, with the Spirit in dire need of points, Washington could go with a similar lineup as what was seen on Wednesday night.

Injuries

OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: None

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Stay Compact. The Spirit have done a good job of staying compact along the back line in the past three games. In those three games, they have only allowed two goals, with one coming off of a free kick. Taylor Smith and Caprice Dydasco have settled into their roles at outside back and have found the balance between attacking and defending. The center backs of Whitney Church, Rebecca Quinn, and Estelle Johnson have done well despite rotation due to injuries. If goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe can keep the backline in check in front of her, the Spirit could go on a run here at a time where they desperately need points.

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Ashley HatchAubrey BledsoeCaprice DydascoEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageJim GabarraMallory PughRebecca QuinnRose LavelleTaylor SmithWhitney Church

Last season, the Washington Spirit went 3-0 against Sky Blue FC. So with the Spirit desperately needing a win to help their season, a winless Sky Blue came to town. The Spirit turned in one of the better overall performances from the squad this season and picked up a 1-0 win on Wednesday night.

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

Both teams were unable to break the deadlock in the first half with each team having shots go off the woodwork. Coming out of the locker room, Spirit forward Ashley Hatch was firing on all cylinders. She would finally put one home in the 64th minute, proving to be the difference for Washington.

Defense Comes Up Big

In the past three games, the Spirit defense has allowed just two goals with one coming off of a free kick. Rebecca Quinn and Whitney Church’s partnership was proving to be a positive one and when Estelle Johnson came back into the lineup on Wednesday night for Quinn, the transition was seamless. Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe picked up her second shutout as a member of the Spirit in the 1-0 victory.

I think Aubrey has certainly stepped up in these past couple games and she hasn’t been making that one or two big mistakes that create a good chance or goal for the other team,” head coach Jim Gabarra said.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Aubrey Bledsoe was awarded the Spirit Squadron’s player of the match trophy following her shutout.

One of the biggest keys to the new found confidence of the backline was the decision to switch up which side the center backs were playing on. When Johnson was out because of injury, Quinn stepped in to play at center back. At that time, the Spirit played her at right center back alongside of Taylor Smith, while Church would be on the left with Caprice Dydasco. With Johnson returning, she slid into the right center back role to keep Church on the left.

“We wanted to put [Quinn] on the side with Taylor,” Gabarra said. “Then when we bring Estelle back in, you’re basically making two changes rather than one so we put Estelle [on the right side]. Estelle is more comfortable on the right anyways so it might stay that way. I think the important thing is the relationship between Whit and Estelle is very good and [Quinn] and Estelle have a good relationship with Taylor and Estelle and Whit have  a good relationship with [Dydasco]. Then that translates up to Tori and [Quinn] or Andi in the six role.”

Andi Sullivan Picks Up First Career Point

Mallory Pugh drew a foul in the attacking third for Washington roughly 63 minutes into the game. With it being too far out for a shot on goal, midfielder Andi Sullivan stepped up to take the kick. Sullivan played a well weighted ball towards the back post and found the head of Ashley Hatch. Hatch’s header would be good enough for the only goal of the game. With the assist, Sullivan picked up her first career professional point.

“Whit has been putting in some great services and I don’t know, for some reason I just felt inclined to take it and she let me which was great,” Sullivan said. “Then it was a little far out and we wanted to test their keeper but it was a little far and Mal looked at me and said serve it and I said ok. I think I like that service, like the back post bent service and Hatch is great in the air so I just looked to kind of hit it to that back six. It was one of those that as soon as it hit her head, I knew it was going in. So it was awesome, she is so good at that finish so I just wanted to serve it up to her.”

The goal was the first scored by the Spirit since April 28, a 1-1 draw vs. the Chicago. Hatch now has two goals on the year for Washington.

Mal did a good job of drawing the foul and Andi set up and I just wanted to start wide and run in on it,” Hatch said. “Andi put a perfect flighted ball and it was easy just to run in on it and tap it in.”

Rose Lavelle Makes Her Spirit Debut

Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle made her Spirit debut on Wednesday night, coming in for Estefania Banini in the 74th minute. Lavelle picked up her first NWSL minutes after having not played due to a hamstring injury since August of 2017. Her fresh legs helped the Spirit, who are playing three games in eight days.

“It felt really good,” Lavelle said. “I was really nervous going in because obviously I haven’t played in a about a lifetime. So I was really nervous but it’s the same game as before I got hurt. I just had to calm down and let my nerves settle and just enjoy the moment.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Rose Lavelle warms up prior to her first game action with the Washington Spirit.

Next Up

Washington now heads to Houston on Sunday to take on the Dash. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 8 p.m. Houston sits just two points ahead of the Spirit and sit in 7th place.

Aubrey BledsoeEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageGame PreviewRose Lavelle

The Washington Spirit will play their first midweek match on Wednesday night when they take on Sky Blue FC. This will be the second match in five days for the Spirit after falling to the Portland Thorns 1-0 this past Saturday.

Kick-Off

7:30 PM ET on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Location

Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Rebecca Quinn,  Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Tori Huster, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Estefania Banini

Noteworthy

Midfielder Rose Lavelle and defender Estelle Johnson were both not listed on the injury list for Wednesday night’s game. Johnson has missed the past two matches because of a hamstring strain. Lavelle, acquired from Boston in the dispersal draft, has yet to suit up for Washington. A hamstring strain has kept Lavelle out of NWSL play since August of 2017.

Injuries

OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: None

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Key to Victory

Don’t Give Up Free Kicks. The Spirit have given up some juicy free kicks so far this season and it has cost them. In the season opener, Seattle’s Megan Rapinoe buried a curler right past goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. In both games against North Carolina this season, Washington has given up a free kick goal. Against North Carolina on Saturday, Sky Blue’s Carli Lloyd tucked one into the upper 90 during extra time to bring Sky Blue within one. If the Spirit want to keep Sky Blue off the board, being smart about where they are giving up fouls is very important.

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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

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