Arielle ShipGame Day CoverageJim GabarraKristie MewisLine Sigvardsen JensenMallory PughMeggie Dougherty HowardStephanie Labbe

On Saturday evening, the Maryland SoccerPlex was buzzing, not because of the game between FC Kansas City and the Washington Spirit that was set to take place, but because of who was set to make her debut. Mallory Pugh earned her first professional minutes in a 1-0 loss for the Spirit.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Labbé; Johnson, Church, Zadorsky, Kleiner; Dougherty Howard, Sigvardsen, Mewis; Williams, Ordega, Ship

In the 54th minute, Pugh entered the match for Arielle Ship. When Pugh stepped on the field, she became the youngest American-born player to appear in the NWSL at just 19-years-old. With US Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis in attendance for the match, Pugh played primarily as a left forward, a position she has become familiar with on the national team.

“I think that’s where she’s most comfortable and that’s where she best fits our style of play and our system,” Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra said when talking to the media after the game. “It’s probably the easiest transition for her, rather than playing in the midfield where there’s tactically some different things that she’s got to get used to.”

Both teams had numerous chances to score throughout the game, but it was not until the 39th minute that either side broke through. Kansas City forward Sydney Leroux flicked on a ball to midfielder Alexa Newfield who buried the ball past goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. The Spirit had chances of their own but failed to deposit any of their opportunities.

“The times we attacked the flanks, which was the game plan, we created scoring chances,” Gabarra said. “I think if we get a goal out of what we created in the first 20-30 minutes, I think we walk out of here with an easy three points, but that didn’t happen. That’s kind of been the theme for three of our four home games.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Shelina Zadorsky covers FCKC forward Sydney Leroux in the second half.

Despite the ongoing offensive struggles for the Spirit, the defense bounced back from a 6-2 defeat the week before in Seattle. This marks the third time this season that Washington has lost 1-0 at the Plex.

“Defensively we did much better limiting their chances and not really giving them any big scoring chances other than the goal obviously,” Labbé said post game. “I think with that, it’s just continuing to build on the offense. That’s where were going to win games. We need to start scoring goals. I think keep pushing towards that and building our confidence with that is where we need to go.”

The midfield saw the biggest change this week. Tori Huster was out with a quad strain and Kassey Kallman did not see action for the first time in over three years. The play of Line Sigvardsen, Meggie Dougherty Howard and Kristie Mewis did a better job of connecting between the backline and the forwards than in previous weeks.

“It was organized and I think they worked really hard, but you can’t replace Tori. I’ve said all along, when you don’t see her out there, you really have a good appreciation of how much she does,” Gabarra said. “Her mobility and winning of balls and change the point of attack was something we really missed, even though the three of them, Line and Meggie and Kristie did a very good job.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Meggie Dougherty Howard fights for the ball against FCKC’s Becca Moros.

The Spirit will travel to Kansas City next week for the second half of a home and away series with the Blues. Kickoff for next week’s matchup will be at 8 p.m. ET.

Cheyna WilliamsGame Day CoverageHavana SolaunKristie Mewis

The Washington Spirit traveled to the west coast for the first time this season on Saturday when they took on the Seattle Reign. Memorial Stadium was once again not kind to the Spirit as they fell to the Reign 6-2.

Reign forward Nahomi Kawasumi had a hand in five of the six goals with four assists and a goal of her own. The offensive explosion from the Reign is the second time they have scored five or more goals already this season.

Seattle went into halftime up 2-0 off of goals from former Spirit midfielder Christine Nairn and forward Beverly Yanez. The Spirit would get a goal back in the 60th minute when former Reign midfielder Havana Solaun beat Seattle goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer from the penalty spot. Washington was awarded the penalty after Cheyna Williams’ cross hit the outstretched arm of Rachel Corsie.

After the goal from Washington, Seattle would score four goals in 11 minutes. Megan Rapinoe had a brace sandwiched in between goals from Kawasumi and Lindsay Elston. Kristie Mewis got one back for the Spirit in the 88th minute to make it 6-2.

“If we had scored a second goal when it was 2-1 I think we could have come away with a win, but credit to Seattle for staying aggressive and punishing us defensively,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “I was proud of our team for fighting until the finish and getting another goal at the end.”

The one positive for the Spirit from Saturday evening was the addition of U.S. Women’s National Team star Mallory Pugh. Pugh was picked up with the number one allocation spot that was acquired through multiple offseason trades. The 19-year-old is set to make her debut on Saturday, May 20 when the Spirit welcome FC Kansas City to the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Kristie MewisPlayer Previews

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

Name: Kristie Mewis

Hometown: Hanson, Massachusetts

Position: Midfield

College: Boston College

Mewis in a preseason match vs. UNC on March 25, 2017.
Photo credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)

Last season: Kristie Mewis played in 14 games for the Boston Breakers in 2016. She scored one goal and added one assist. Mewis struggled to find her place in the Boston midfield last season. After dealing with a variety of injury problems throughout the year, Mewis was dealt along with Kassey Kallman to the Spirit in the offseason.

2017 season: In two appearances for the Spirit this preseason, Mewis has scored three goals. Despite coming off the bench in both matches, Mewis has made a strong impact in the second half. Look for her to come off the bench to start the season, most likely coming on for Joanna Lohman in the number 10 role. Also look for Mewis to be the primary free kick taker when she is on the pitch.