Photos by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)
The Washington Spirit will hit the road to take on the Portland Thorns in their second trip out west of the season.
10:30 PM ET on Friday, April 20, 2018
Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.
Projected Starting Lineup
Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Joanna Lohman, Mallory Pugh; Mallory Eubanks Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega
Mallory Pugh is not listed on the injury report this week, despite leaving last weekend’s game early because of an injury. Rose Lavelle and Rebecca Quinn remain on the injury report as out. Head coach Jim Gabarra had mentioned that it would be possible those two would be available for selection this weekend.
OUT: Rose Lavelle (left hamstring strain), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Rebecca Quinn (right TFL muscle strain), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Yanara Aedo (CHI), Estefania Banini (ARG)
Key to Victory
The midfield game. Last week against the North Carolina Courage, Mallory Pugh played in the midfield as a tactic to try and surprise the Courage. It did just that as Pugh scored just three minutes in. With Rebecca Quinn out for a second straight game, it will be up to Andi Sullivan to hold down that defensive midfield role once again. Joanna Lohman is the spark plug out of these three. She is the one that will be tasked with playing a combination of that attacking and defensive midfielder roles.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
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.”
With the 2018 season beginning on Saturday, Follow Your Spirit brings you a break down of each position group on the Washington Spirit. Next up, the midfielders.
#27 – Yanara Aedo
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Temuco, Chile
#10 – Estefania Banini
- Age: 27
- Hometown: Mendoza, Argentina
#8 – Meggie Dougherty Howard
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Largo, Florida
#23 – Tori Huster
- Age: 28
- Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
#16 – Rose Lavelle
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
#15 – Joanna Lohman
- Age: 35
- Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
#12 – Morgan Profitt
- Age: 23
- Hometown: Columbus, Indiana
#9 – Havana Solaun
- Age: 25
- Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
#6 – Andi Sullivan
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Lorton, Virginia
With the number one overall draft pick, the Spirit selected Andi Sullivan. Washington also acquired Rose Lavelle from Boston in the dispersal draft. It is tough to say what the starting lineup will be with this group. It will come down to which formation head coach Jim Gabarra decides on. In years past and this year’s preseason, Gabarra has played with three in the midfield. If this is the case for this year, expect to see Andi Sullivan, Meggie Dougherty Howard and Havana Solaun in the midfield.
While Estefania Banini is listed as a midfielder on the roster, expect to see her as a forward in the 4-3-3 system. Lavelle did not play in either preseason match and is not expected to be ready right away. Once she returns, Gabarra will be faced with the decision of whether or not to switch to a 4-4-2 instead. The midfield group is the deepest of all of the positions, however, many players are very similar. There are four to five players who could be classified as defensive midfielders. It will be interesting to see how this plays into the offense dynamic of the team.
Player to Watch
Andi Sullivan, a Lorton, Virginia native, returns to Washington after four years on the west coast at Stanford. Sullivan played three seasons for the D.C. United Women and Spirit Reserves. With the number one pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft, Washington selected Sullivan to return to D.C.
“[Being picked first overall] was interesting,” Sullivan said after practice on Friday. “It’s funny, you dream about being a pro your whole life and to know it’s actually happening was very cool. I wish I could have been at the draft but I was in LA. I was hanging out with Savannah McCaskill, who got picked second, so that was pretty cool because it was a similar situation. There was just so much going on but it was obviously super exciting and I was just really happy.”
Unlike most rookies, Sullivan is very familiar with the city she was drafted by. It’s the small things in life that Sullivan is most relieved about.
“I love [being back in the area],” Sullivan said. “I think it’s also made this transition into pro life a lot easier being familiar with the area and a lot of the players and the facilities and everything. And the roads even, a lot of little things that you would maybe take for granted when you’re in a new place. It just feels like I’m back at home so it’s very comforting.”
Tomorrow’s preview will take a look at the forwards for the Spirit. This will be the final group preview before the season opener on Saturday, March 24.
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!
Follow Your Spirit: @SpiritCoverage
After tearing her Anterior Cruciate Ligament in April of 2017, midfielder Joanna Lohman is back and ready for the 2018 season to get underway. From Africa to South Asia to Paris, the Silver Spring native has had a busy offseason. Now, it’s all about getting her body and her mind back to 100 percent playing form.
“I’m doing well,” Lohman said. “I’ve definitely been very busy. I’ve done a lot of traveling as a Sports Diplomat overseas. I went to Africa and also South Asia. Then I spent some time in Paris more as an advocate for the Gay Games in Washington, D.C. and the bid for 2022. And clearly, every day rehabbing and training to get ready for the season. It’s been a very active offseason for me.”
One of Lohman’s biggest adventures of the offseason was a trip to Cote D’Ivoire as a Sports Diplomat. She worked as part of a program called ‘The Champions of National Unity.’
“It was a program for reconciliation because they’ve had a lot of violence up until 2011 in Cote D’Ivoire. They really wanted to run a program using soccer as a vehicle to really push for tolerance and communication and community and unity in the country,” Lohman said. “So I helped to run soccer festivals around the country.”
While Lohman was there, she participated in soccer matches because she had reached a point in her rehab that she could begin playing again.
“I went to three different cities within Cote D’Ivoire and we had entire communities come out to these programs and we would play a celebrity match with a group of teenagers that were selected as the team called the nationals of unity,” Lohman said. “It really highlighted a lot of these teenagers, ages 14-18, and how they were demonstrating all of the values that this program was trying to promote and how they were really leaders in their communities.”
When she was not traveling around the world, Lohman was back home in Maryland rehabbing. At this point in her rehab, it’s about building strength and getting back to where she was prior to her injury.
Anyone who has gone through this injury knows that the rehab process is a rollercoaster. You have good weeks and bad weeks, but you just have to stay consistent and realize that all the work you are putting in, you will get to a place where you feel better,” Lohman said. “I’m definitely not 100 percent physically or mentally but that’s part of the process and I know that preseason will be an opportunity for me to kind of get back into it, see how I feel.”
Injuries often happen at awful times, whether for the athlete or the team. Lohman was coming off a career year that saw her score four goals and play in 20 games. In the first game of the 2017 season, Lohman tore her ACL. But Lohman looks at it as a learning experience.
“I think I proved to myself that even through tragedy to a certain extent, and devastation, I could still find beauty in the simple things,” Lohman said. “I had an identity outside of soccer. That’s so important for me because I can’t play soccer forever. As much as I would like to, it showed how many dimensions I have as a human being. So it was a very empowering experience.”
This offseason, the Spirit picked up many young, talented players. Because of this, playing time could be up for grabs in preseason and early on in the regular season. For Lohman, her veteran presence will help her have an impact on this year’s team.
“For me, it’s not about playing time anymore, it’s not about goals scored or assists,” Lohman said. “That will come if I do all the little things that are important in my career and I want to show up every day and contribute to the team and be a leader and a veteran and provide things that I think only someone who’s had a professional career for 14 seasons can do. That’s really my goal is to truly throw myself into this season and make my team better.”
The Spirit opened up preseason on February 19. They will play their first preseason game on March 10 vs. the University of North Carolina. Preseason will wrap up with a match against the North Carolina Courage on March 17. That game will take place in Richmond, VA.
The regular season will begin on March 24 when Washington heads out to Seattle to face the Reign. Kick-off for that match is 10 p.m. ET.