Estefania BaniniHavana SolaunJoanna LohmanMeggie Dougherty HowardRose LavelleTori Huster

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.

The Group

#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.”

Next Up

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.

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

Joanna LohmanPlayer InterviewsPreaseason

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.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Lohman waves to the crowd during warmups prior to a game on June 3, 2017.

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.

Cheyna WilliamsJim GabarraJoanna LohmanKatie StengelStephanie LabbeTori Huster

Opening weekend of the 5th NWSL season did not go the way the Washington Spirit had planned. Two starters left the game before halftime with injuries and the team would end up losing to the North Carolina Courage 1-0 after being heavily outshot.

Just 19 minutes into the game, Joanna Lohman was forced to come off the field because of an injury. Lohman fell to the pitch in pain after attempting to continue playing despite injuring her knee minutes earlier. With Lohman down, the Courage took advantage of the situation. McCall Zerboni was able to get on the end of a Makenzy Doniak cross to put the visitors up 1-0. Things would go from bad to worse for the Spirit in the 38th minute. While attempting to block a cross, Cheyna Williams took a ball off her foot and ankle that would eventually lead to her being subbed off.

“Injuries happen. Certainly, in the first half it makes it difficult with your substitution pattern,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “So we were kind of behind the eight ball having to make two subs.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Caprice Dydasco, Cheyna Williams, and Joanna Lohman sit on the sidelines during the game.

The Spirit struggled to connect passes and keep possession in the first half, but showed signs of improvement in the second half, ending the game with a 53-46 percent possession advantage. Despite the possession advantage, North Carolina won the battle in the midfield using their diamond shape to disrupt the Spirit attack. Washington only managed 3 shots in the game, none of which were on frame, while the Courage picked up 21 total shots with 9 of those coming on net.

“[The Courage] were playing with a diamond in the midfield so they were overloaded and they were able to push us to one side and then find their extra person on the other side of the field pretty easily,” Spirit midfielder Tori Huster said. “We can’t make it that easy for them to switch the field. I think being so disjointed didn’t help our attack either. We weren’t close enough to each other to get something going forward. Being the playmakers in the midfield, we’ve got to get on the ball and help things going forward with our forwards.”

The best chance for the Spirit came in the 63rd minute when Huster played a through ball to Katie Stengel. Stengel rounded Courage goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, but her shot attempt went wide right.

“It’s a little discouraging,” Huster said. “I think there was one play where Stengel would want that one back, usually she’s right on it. It just was an unfortunate day today, a little bit unlucky with that.”

The lone bright spot for the Spirit was the play of goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Labbé had multiple highlight reel saves, racking up eight total saves on the afternoon.

“I think we left her out to dry way too many times,” Gabarra said. “To only concede one goal, I think that says a lot about her performance as a shot stopper and that’s something we knew was there. Overall, I thought she saved us on numerous occasions.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Labbé makes a save against the Courage on April 14.

The Spirit will be back in action on April 22 as they head to Orlando to face off against the Pride. Orlando is also coming off an opening weekend loss as they fell 2-0 to the Thorns in Portland on Saturday night. The Spirit vs. Pride game will be available on Lifetime as part of the NWSL Game of the Week. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET.

Francisca OrdegaJoanna LohmanKatie StengelStephanie Labbe

The 2017 NWSL season is upon us and we couldn’t be more excited. The Spirit are coming of a heartbreaking 2016 season that ended with a loss in PKs at the NWSL Championship. After a lot of turnover, the Spirit are ready to prove themselves worthy of another chance at the title.

The video above and the podcast below go over Timothy Lawson’s “5 Bold Predictions” for the 2017 season. He went 1 for 5 last year and is hoping to do at least one better. Check out his predictions and let us know on Twitter which ones you think are too bold and which ones are achievable (@SpiritCoverage).

Joanna LohmanPlayer Previews

As the 2017 NWSL season approaches, we will be rolling out profiles on the 2017 Washington Spirit roster.

Name: Joanna Lohman

Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

Position: Midfield

College: Penn State University

Lohman vs. Sky Blue on July 31, 2016. Photo credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)

Last season: Joanna Lohman scored four goals in 20 games played last season. No goal was bigger than her bicycle kick goal against Boston Breakers to open up the historic 4th season of the NWSL. Lohman’s four goals were second most on the team in 2016. Alongside Tori Huster and Christine Nairn, Lohman helped the Spirit midfield become one of the top units in the league.

2017 season: Lohman will be one of the few returning players to the Spirit’s attack in the 2017 season. With the departures of Nairn and Canadian international Diana Matheson, Lohman and Huster will be tasked with leading the midfield this season. Expect Lohman to bring intensity and grit to the midfield, two intangibles that will not show up on the stats sheet, but will have a positive impact on the team.

Joanna Lohman

As the players walk out onto the field at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Maryland, one player stands out in the Washington Spirit lineup. Joanna Lohman, a 34-year-old from Silver Spring, Maryland, and her famous “Jo Hawk” are a popular sight for women’s soccer fans around the globe.

Over her 10 year professional career, Lohman has traveled all over the world, spreading her knowledge and love of soccer to communities throughout the globe. Working with the State Department and the U.S. Soccer sports envoy program, Lohman has traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Thailand to conduct soccer clinics with the local youth.

After speaking at a summer program through the foreign service institute at the State Department, Lohman was contacted by a woman who offered her a chance to go to Botswana, a small country in Africa, for her next program.

“You can’t really say that to someone like me without me showing up at your front door,” Lohman said. “That was really a part of the world I really wanted to explore. I had never been to sub-Saharan Africa. So after she said that to me, I said alright, let’s see if we can do this. We kept in contact, she spoke to the ambassador when she went over to Botswana and they put together a program. That’s kind of how it came about.”

Lohman and her friend Charlotte Mace left for Botswana in early November. The first stop on the trip was to a northern part of Botswana in a city called Maun. Lohman ran a clinic for about 15 girls in the local community. They were given the best turf field in Maun to train on and played for roughly five and a half hours in the 100 degree weather.

“These girls had no shoes, no sports bras,” Lohman said. “I was shocked, honestly. Maybe I was a bit naive, but I thought they would at least have something on their feet. It was very eye opening for me to see their humble backgrounds. But still, they are passionate for the game and they are passionate to learn.”

The second clinic was held in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. This camp was held at the Lekidi Center, which is where the Botswana national team trains. Here, the U.S. ambassador, UNICEF and the minister of Youth, Sport and Culture came and even participated in a pickup game.

“It was a very fulfilling experience for me,” Lohman said. “It was great because for once, the whole community came out to support these young women. I think that never happens for them and they were given a day and a chance to feel special. These are young girls that never get to leave their village, so they are taking a bus to the Lekidi Center, which is the national training center. Their parents get the chance to be proud of them doing something that is quite remarkable.”

Mace, who had traveled with Lohman to both Argentina and Thailand, said that Lohman is such a bright spot in the lives of these young girls. Despite only spending a short time with the girls, Lohman is able to spread her love for the game to these girls.

“She might only see them for a day, but during that short time she gives them her undivided attention,” Mace wrote in an email. “She makes them laugh and have fun, but at the same time she pushes them to try things they might not have done otherwise.  She believes in them and this helps the girls to believe in themselves more.  This is especially important in cultures where young girls are often overlooked.”

While in these countries, it gives a perspective on how lucky females really are in the United States, Lohman said. In these countries, women are not given the same chances that are given to women in more developed countries.

“I think it really gives me a strong appreciation for the life that I lead and also I feel a strong responsibility to give back to a sport that’s provided me so much,” Lohman said. “I think that I’ve been able to really learn a lot of lessons sport teaches that a lot of these girls have not been able to learn; they don’t have the same opportunities. For us to have so much support in the United States, it’s so unique and it’s not until you leave this country that you realize how much we are given.”


When Lohman is not traveling to these countries to spread the power of sport, she is training as a professional women’s soccer player. A key piece to the midfield that helped the Washington Spirit finish second in the National Women’s Soccer League, Lohman is enjoying her job every day.

“I really don’t feel like it’s my job, I feel like it’s a vocation,” Lohman said. “I feel like I was put on this earth to play soccer. I think that I am so lucky that in my day job, people love me for 100 percent who I am. I can be a gay professional female athlete and people adore you for it. That comes around once in a lifetime.”

Women’s soccer is a special sport because of the access that fans are given to the players. One of the main ways players are able to connect with their fans is through social media. Lohman is one of the most active players in the league on Twitter and feels this is important to the growth of the league.

“I think that a women’s soccer fan has been through some sort of adversity, has been ostracized in some way and is really looking for a way to connect with and to belong to something and I think women’s soccer gives them that,” Lohman said. “So if we can really keep igniting that fire they have, it can only serve multitudes of benefits for the league because you are giving the fan access to the game and you are giving them access to something that makes them feel great about themselves.”


When looking at the Washington Spirit roster, the “Jo Hawk” is something that sticks out to the eye. Lohman’s famous hair style began the offseason before joining the Spirit. A trip to Las Vegas inspired the now fan-favorite hairstyle.

“After my two seasons in Boston, when I came home in that offseason, I had planned a trip to Las Vegas so I kind of went a little wild for that,” Lohman said. “Ever since then, it’s taken on a mind of its own and a life of its own. The fans love it so I try to always keep it fresh for them. It’s just like my inner Jo on the outside.”

Photo Credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)

Crystal DunnJoanna LohmanKelsey WysStephanie Labbe

Coach Gabarra

The second episode this week features Monica Esenwein from Backline Soccer.

Monica and I have been sharing a media table at Spirit home games all season and have gotten to know each other pretty well during that period. Her colleagues at Backline Soccer have been very kind to have me on their programming and I thought it was only fitting to have her on mine.

The first half of this episode is about the win on Wednesday night against the Reign, the potential playoff match-up, and how we feel about the Spirit overall.

The second half addresses the national anthem controversy from the same game. I served in the military and Monica comes from a military family, so we both had plenty to say about the situation.

If you’re not interested in more national anthem banter, don’t worry, the first 25 minutes is all about the Spirit. Please, take the time to listen to that, because that’s what is most important right now.

Follow our guest on Twitter @Monz59

Joanna Lohman

Joanna Lohman

Joanna Lohman is a popular player in women’s soccer. One of the things she’s most well-known for is her hair designs.

When Joanna was on the podcast, she agreed to let me choose a design for the game on July 2nd – which happens to be my birthday. I chose three options and let the fans decide. American flag was the winner.

Joanna was unable to get in to her barber in time for the 7/2 match, so she got it set up for the 7/30 match and invited me to come hang out with her to see her barber in action.

Drew, her barber, was worried the American flag would require too much detail, so Joanna chose different design.

Caprice DydascoCheyna WilliamsEstefania BaniniGame Day CoverageJim GabarraJoanna Lohman

All that stood between the Spirit and the Olympic break was a re-match with Sky Blue on Saturday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Mother Nature had other plans however, with a severe thunderstorm rolling into Maryland on Saturday evening around game time. The storm was too much to handle, forcing the game to be rescheduled for Sunday morning. In the final installment of the four game series, the Spirit grabbed the 3-1 win behind goals from forwards Estefania Banini and Cheyna Williams and defender Alyssa Kleiner.

Starting XI: Wys; Church, Johnson, Oyster, Dydasco; Nairn ©, Huster, Lohman; Banini, Stengel, Williams
Starting XI: Wys; Church, Johnson, Oyster, Dydasco; Nairn ©, Huster, Lohman; Banini, Stengel, Williams

Banini’s goal, her fifth of the year, gave the Spirit an early 1-0 lead in the 29th minute. The Argentinian received a pass from Joanna Lohman at the top of the box and blasted a shot past Sky Blue goalkeeper Caroline Casey. Just six minutes later, Sky Blue forward Tasha Kai was on the receiving end of a fortunate bounce and beat Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys to even the score.

i-XrzjbGJ-X2Williams would assure the Spirit went into the locker room with the 2-1 lead. Defender Caprice Dydasco played a ball into the box where Williams would collect, split two Sky Blue defenders and tuck home a shot past Casey. The goal was Williams’ first professional goal.

“It felt really good and when my team embraced me, that was the best part,” Williams said. “I think we responded well. We know that they capitalize on their opportunities and we wanted to make sure we switched on at all times. So I feel like the goal was a wakeup call for us and I think we responded really well.”

i-hXtWK3K-X2This was the first time the Spirit scored two goals in the first half since June 18, 2016 against Orlando. After calling last week’s first half “atrocious”, Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra felt this week’s was the best half his team had played all season.

“I think it was probably our best half of the season, at least as far as playing the way we want to play in setting our press,” Gabarra said. “Outside of not scoring the chances we created on corner kicks and other chances where we felt like we could have been up 3-0 before we scored our first goal. I thought it was much better, the energy was good. We were playing the way we’ve asked them to play.”

Williams would not be the only player to score her first professional goal. After Kleiner was subbed on in the 89th minute, it didn’t take long for her presence to be felt. Just moments into extra time, Kleiner collected the ball at the top of the 18 yard box and crushed a shot with her left foot into the back of the net to secure the victory for the Spirit.


The NWSL will now go on break for the Olympic games. The first game back will be on August 18, 2016 in Houston between the Spirit and the Dash. This game is a makeup game from May 27, 2016. Kickoff for the matchup is 7 p.m. in Houston (8 p.m. on the east coast).

photos by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos