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 BledsoeCaprice DydascoGame Day CoverageJim GabarraMallory Pugh

The Washington Spirit welcomed the North Carolina Courage to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday evening. In their first matchup of the regular season, the Spirit (1-2-0) fell to the visiting Courage (3-0-0) 4-2.

Washington opened up the scoring in the third minute off of a goal from Mallory Pugh. The Courage tied it up in the 20 minute on Crystal Dunn’s first career goal with North Carolina. Just four minutes later, a free kick goal from McCall Zerboni put the visitors ahead. Another goal from Zerboni and one more from Lynn Williams in the second half ultimately sank the Spirit. Despite a goal from Francisca Ordega in the 58 minute, a comeback just was not in the cards for the Spirit.

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

Set Play Goals Sink the Spirit

Of the four goals the Spirit gave up on Saturday night, two came off of set plays. The first goal from McCall Zerboni was off a free kick from just around 20 yards out. The free kick came from a mistake by Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who played the ball with her hands outside of the 18 yard box. Another mistake came in the wall placement and Zerboni was able to slip the ball around and into the back of the net.

The second goal for Zerboni came off of a corner kick. North Carolina moved the ball around well off of the corner and the Spirit failed to clear. The ball eventually was played across the six yard box and found a wide open Zerboni at the back post.

“I mean this is one of the best teams in our game on set plays and that was certainly a goal to not concede on a set play,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “But the first one, the wall was 15 yards away and it’s a bad mistake by our goalkeeper to give away a free kick there. So that could have been prevented by not giving them a free kick. If you get a properly set wall, maybe we get to block it. The other corner, that’s a mistake defensively, letting the player turn and drive the ball across the six.”

Partnership Forming On Left Side

While the Spirit have many new faces on the field, one partnership that is in full bloom is the one between Mallory Pugh and Caprice Dydasco. With Pugh playing in the midfield this week, the partnership was really highlighted.

In the first half, this combo was tearing up the North Carolina defense. However, it wasn’t until about halfway through the second half that the duo got going again. If they can continue the play, it’ll be a headache for the NWSL defenders going forward.

“Whoever you put out there with Caprice, Caprice finds a way to blend in and work well with whoever is out there,” Gabarra said. “I think with Mal out there, Mal is a similar case. It’s pretty easy to play with her, she’s such a good player. As we develop, we like to see those relationships throughout the group.”

Mallory Pugh Leaves Game With Injury

Spirit forward Mallory Pugh left the match in the 75 minute after pulling up because of an injury. While it is unknown what the injury is exactly, it appears to be on the right leg of Pugh. After exiting the game, Pugh was sporting an ice pack on her lower knee and upper shin area. She will be further evaluated this week.

Next Up

The Spirit will head out to the west coast for their next match. Washington will travel to Providence Park to face the Portland Thorns on Friday, April 20. Kick-off for that match will be at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Ashley HatchAubrey BledsoeGame Day CoverageJim GabarraJoanna LohmanMallory Pugh

After nine months of waiting, Washington Spirit fans finally saw their team win at the Maryland SoccerPlex. In the home opener, the Spirit (1-1-0) took down the visiting Orlando Pride (0-1-1) 2-0.

It was all even at zero before Mallory Pugh broke the scoring in the 80th minute. Just eight minutes later, Ashley Hatch sealed the victory with her first goal as a member of the Washington Spirit. Aubrey Bledsoe picked up her first win and shutout in her Spirit home debut.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Rebecca Quinn, Andi Sullivan, Havana Solaun; Francisca Ordega, Ashley Hatch, Mallory Pugh

Defense Stands Strong

With Rebecca Quinn getting her visa issues worked out, it appeared as if she would slide into the backline to replace Whitney Church. Instead, head coach Jim Gabarra put her in the midfield, leaving the backline intact from last weekend.

After struggling to contain Megan Rapinoe and the offense of the Seattle Reign in the opener, Washington did a much better job this week of sealing those holes and not allowing much through. This led to goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe making four stops in route to a clean sheet.

“Well, I was really happy with the whole backline and the whole group in its entirety,” Gabarra said. “I think they grew into the game and they got better and started forging some of those relationships. Most importantly I think we weren’t giving up a tremendous number of chances so that’s always pleasing.”

Spirit Offense Steps Up Late

In the 80th minute, Mallory Pugh burst past the backline of Orlando before slotting the ball home through the legs of Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Just eight minutes later, Ashley Hatch scored her first goal for the Spirit. Both ended up being huge goals in picking up three points for the Spirit.

The Spirit racked up three shots on goal, all coming in the second half. The first half was full of opportunities, but the final pass was just off in most situations. That all changed when Pugh picked up the ball just over half field. She outran Krieger, twisted Shelina Zadorsky around, and ended up beating Harris with a low ground ball. Hatch’s goal was a combination of a lot of hard work from Mallory Eubanks, Meggie Dougherty Howard, and Pugh. That now is three goals in two games for Washington.

“I think I just saw that I had time and space,” Pugh said. “Estelle always says to shoot the ball. So yeah, I just took my opportunity. I wanted to keep it low and thankful it went in.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Mallory Pugh celebrates with her teammates after scoring the game-winning goal.

“You know, Jo just kind of laid it off perfectly,” Hatch said. “I saw an open goal so I just tried to hit it as hard as I can so it went in.”

Tori Huster Honored in Pre-Game

Prior to the game, midfielder Tori Huster was honored with a commemorative jersey for reaching the 100 caps mark. The jersey was presented to Huster by Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch. Huster reached the milestone game against the Seattle Reign last weekend. She is the only remaining player on the roster from the inaugural season of the Spirit.

Next Up

The NWSL will now go on a break with a FIFA break approaching. The United States National Team will be in action on Thursday, April 5 and Sunday, April 8 when they take on Mexico.

Following the completion of the FIFA break, the Spirit will return home to the Maryland SoccerPlex to take on the North Carolina Courage. The Spirit will host the Courage on April 14 with kickoff coming at 7 p.m.

Andi SullivanEstefania BaniniGame Day CoverageJim GabarraJoanna LohmanMeggie Dougherty HowardRebecca Quinn

The Washington Spirit opened up the 2018 NWSL season on Saturday night against the Seattle Reign at Memorial Stadium. Two first-half goals from Seattle sunk Washington in game one, 2-1.

Reign forward Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring in the 7th minute off of a free kick. With 10 minutes to go before halftime, former Spirit forward Jodie Taylor doubled the lead for the home team to send the Reign into the locker room up 2-0. A goal from Joanna Lohman in the 68th minute brought the Spirit within one, but that would be all Washington could do to comeback.

Defensive Mistakes Cost Washington

Rookie Rebecca Quinn was to make her NWSL debut on Saturday against the Reign but due to visa issues, she will have to wait another week to make that happen. Instead, Whitney Church slid into her spot in the center of the defense alongside Estelle Johnson. While Church did not have a particularly poor performance, the partnership between Church and right back Taylor Smith struggled.

“I think the biggest thing is you’ve got Whit and Taylor who haven’t played together and they’ve only had a couple of training sessions and a couple of games,” head coach Jim Gabarra said after the match. “Then you’ve got Rapinoe out there to deal with so it’s not a good cocktail. But you’ve got to get through it and you’ve got to find that relationship and it takes time for those.”

The second goal highlighted the Spirit’s struggle defensively, with a poor touch from Smith on the offensive end leading to an easy cross in from Rapinoe.

“I thought we were a little unlucky on the second goal,” Gabarra said. “I mean Taylor has a great read, she wins the ball but it goes right to them and they play it in behind her so it was a little unfortunate.”

Joanna Lohman Scores in Return From ACL Injury

In the 2017 season opener, Joanna Lohman’s season was over after just 22 minutes. Lohman tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament against the North Carolina Courage in April of last year. Almost a year later, Lohman returned to the pitch as a sub for Tori Huster at halftime. With 23 minutes gone in the second half, Lohman proved that she was officially back. Off of an assist from Estefania Banini, Lohman spun her way through the middle of the box and rifled a shot past goalkeeper Michelle Betos.

“I think it was such an amazing feeling, just getting back on the field,” Lohman said postgame. “I’ve really missed playing the game and obviously I’ve missed being with the Washington Spirit. They’ve been so supportive of me through my injury. I wasn’t fully expecting to play tonight, I think Jim and I’ve been talking about slowly getting me back into the games, so I was so excited to get in at halftime and try to make a difference and bring some energy. I was happy to do that and to get a goal was just an icing on the cake.”

Andi Sullivan Impresses in NWSL Debut

Rookie midfielder Andi Sullivan made her debut for the Washington Spirit on Saturday evening. The Lorton, VA native had three shots, two of which were on target in 90 minutes of work. Sullivan seemed to fit in seamlessly into the Spirit lineup alongside Tori Huster and Meggie Dougherty Howard.

“I thought she was a rock in their for us,” Gabarra said. “She was very reliable. I think she’s confident enough to withstand the tactics and professionalism that was thrown at her tonight. She just kept bouncing back and fought through it so it was really good to see that she’s at a level that she can play in this league and excel.”

Next Up

The Spirit will return home to face the Orlando Pride on March 31 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. This match will be the Lifetime Game of the Week and will kick off at 3:30 p.m.

“Well, home opener is always an exciting time,” Gabarra said. “I think we’ll have a little bit different opportunity to game plan against Orlando now that we’ve got a game on tape. We can also evaluate our play and make some refinements and clean up some details and some of those working relationships and get to know each other a little better.”

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

Joanna Lohman smiles at ref

Jordan Small and Timothy Lawson connect after four weeks since the last podcast. The two hosts cover every bit of news that has released in February, plus a couple announcements for Follow Your Spirit. Enjoy!

Jordan: @Jols98

Tim: @TimLawson21

Follow Your Spirit: @SpiritCoverage

Jim GabarraNWSL Draft

On Thursday morning, the 2018 NWSL Draft took place in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Headed into the draft, all the talk was surrounding Andi Sullivan and whether or not she would declare for the draft. With seven picks in the round, including the first overall pick, the Washington Spirit was paying close attention to Sullivan’s decision.

Sullivan did declare late Wednesday night and was taken with the first overall pick by the Spirit. In doing so, it brought back a local high school product to the DMV. Because of US National Team camp duties, Sullivan was not present for the draft.

“Well, I think the great thing about Andi is she’s a better person than she is a soccer player,” head coach Jim Gabarra said when speaking to reporters after the draft. “So I think it’s certainly huge for our club to add her into the group that we have and fight for time in midfield and really be one of the core members of our squad.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Head coach Jim Gabarra speaks with the media after picking seven in the 2018 NWSL Draft.

The Spirit also selected Canadian international and Duke product Rebecca Quinn with the third overall pick. In the second round, Schuyler DeBree and Mallory Eubanks were selected. The third round brought two familiar Spirit Reserves faces back to the Maryland SoccerPlex. Brittany Basinger was picked at 21 and Maddie Huster, sister of current Spirit midfielder Tori Huster, with the 26th pick. To round out the selections, Rachel Moore was picked with the first pick in the fourth and final round.

Of the seven draft picks, four had played previously for the Spirit Reserves, Washington’s W-League affiliate. This continues a trend of college Reserves players being drafted by the professional team.

“It’s kind of a transition into what we hope will be at some point players who play with our [development academy] and then are “Home Grown Players” but we don’t have that rule in place now in our league. In this case we’ve got players who we have seen with our reserves team over the last 3-5 years and rather than bring a player who’s new to our club, it’s a lot easier to bring a kid in that’s been with us whether that’s for a couple summers or a summer before.”

With a majority of the picks being able to play in the midfield role, the Spirit find themselves with an embarrassment of riches at that position. Gabarra sees this as a helping point moving forward.

“We want to play with like 15 players,” Gabarra said. “We’re like all midfield. We are really deep in there and it’ll be healthy competition and it will give us the opportunity to also make sure that our rookie players are getting the chance to get used to the league without the pressure of coming in and having to be a savior or start and play in every match.”

At the draft, the Spirit Squadron showed up and was in full on chanting mode from the beginning. Sky Blue was also well represented by their supporters group, Cloud 9.

“It’s great. I think they definitely beat out their performance in Baltimore,” Gabarra said. “I think you want to credit Cloud 9 from Sky Blue for being here to kind of challenge them a bit. It’s great to see in our game that you are getting to the point where you get supporters who are singing and chanting and screaming at us from the fans.”

Preseason camp opens for the league on Feb. 19 with the season beginning on the weekend of March 24-25.

Breaking NewsBriana ScurryJim Gabarra

The first big move of the offseason for the Washington Spirit was announced on Wednesday afternoon. After assistant coach Denise Reddy left the Spirit to take over as the head coach of Sky Blue FC, Washington was left in need of a new first assistant to head coach Jim Gabarra. The club announced that former USWNT goalkeeper Briana Scurry will fill the role for Washington.

On top of her duties as an assistant on the full team staff, Scurry will also serve as the Techincal Advisor for the Spirit Academy programs in both Maryland and Virginia.

Scurry returns to the D.C. area after playing for the Washington Freedom from 2009-2010. She has attended numerous Spirit home games and was recognized as an Honorary Captain for the team in 2016.

“I’ve always been a loyal fan of the Washington Spirit and now I have the wonderful opportunity to truly be a part of the team,” Scurry said. “I’m excited to bring my experiences and knowledge to our players, and to contribute in an effective and positive manner to the culture of the team and organization as a whole.”

The former USWNT goalkeeper is most well known for her role in the iconic 1999 World Cup Final penalty shootout. Scurry had one save in the final that helped the team win on a Brandi Chastain kick. On top of being a World Cup champion, she also holds two Olympic gold medals from the 1996 and 2004 tournaments.

“We could not possibly be more excited and grateful to have Bri join our Spirit family,” said Spirit Head Coach and General Manager Jim Gabarra. “Bri brings an immense level of resources and experience that will help our players grow and develop. I look forward to working with her and helping her in her own personal growth and development.”

This week, the Spirit also announced this week the scheduling of two preseason matches. The first will take place on March 10 at the Evergreen Sportsplex in Leesburg, Va. The match will feature the University of North Carolina for the second straight season.

Richmond, Va. will host it’s first ever NWSL event as the Spirit will head south to take on the North Carolina Courage. The match will take place on March 17 at City Stadium. This will be the first time the Spirit will play another NWSL team in a preseason match. Tickets for this match will go on sale Friday, December 8.

Alyssa KleinerCali FarquharsonEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKassey KallmanStephanie Labbe

On Saturday afternoon, the league-leading North Carolina Courage played host to the visiting Washington Spirit. The Courage came away with all three points in a 2-0 victory in front of 3530 fans at the WakeMed Soccer Park.

After the first 10 minutes of the match, the Washington Spirit took control of the game. The Spirit’s backline of Estelle Johnson, Shelina Zadorsky, Kassey Kallman and Caprice Dydasco was able to limit the strong attack of the Courage to just one shot on goal in the first half. However, to start the second half, Estelle Johnson was replaced by Alyssa Kleiner because of an illness.

“She felt sick to her stomach, like she was going to throw up,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “It was probably 20 minutes in. We checked her at the water break and wanted to get her through halftime. At halftime, we didn’t want to put her out there in a depleted situation where she was dehydrated and didn’t feel good.”

When the second half kicked off, the Courage came out fired up. Within the first minute, the ball was played out wide to Kristen Hamilton. Hamilton played the ball across the box and after multiple missed clearances by the Washington defense, forward Ashley Hatch slotted her shot past Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to give the Courage a 1-0 lead.

“The first one was right off the kickoff. It felt like they were dribbling and the seas kind of opened. No one was really stepping to put pressure on it and we were a bit passive and on our heels a bit on that,” Labbé said. “It’s just a quick reminder that coming out in the second half, just because the first half went well, you have to put in the hard work at the beginning of the second half to make sure you’re up at that level again.”

In the 84th minute, the Spirit put themselves in an even deeper hole with an own goal. North Carolina’s Sam Mewis played in a corner kick that bounced around in the box with multiple failed clearances by the Spirit. A clearance off the line from Cali Farquharson deflected off the face of Kallman before finding the back of the net.

Prior to the game, the Spirit announced that midfielder Kristie Mewis would be unavailable for the match because of an upcoming trade. It appears as if the trade will be announced on Monday.

“We’re in a situation where we have some extra depth and if we can get some good value for players maybe moving to a team that’s got something to play for to get into the playoffs and get a piece or a draft pick for the future that’s going to help us next year,” Gabarra said after the game. “Yeah, we’re not giving up on this year and looking towards next year but at the same time, you have to take advantage of the assets you have and if someone is interested in a player and they come to us, we’re going to consider it.”

Washington returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, August 26 to take on the Chicago Red Stars. For that match, Francisca Ordega and Kelsey Wys could be off the 45-day disabled list, according to Gabarra. Kickoff for the match is 7 p.m.