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.

Game Day CoverageHavana SolaunJim GabarraLindsay AgnewLine Sigvardsen JensenStephanie Labbe

The Washington Spirit picked up their first point of the season after they played the Orlando Pride to a 1-1 draw. The match was the first ever Pride match at the new Orlando City Stadium.

Line Sigvardsen Jensen opened up the scoring in the 60th minute off of a corner kick from Shelina Zadorsky. The original corner kick was punched away by Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, but the rebound fell to the head of Sigvardsen Jensen just past the penalty spot. The lofted header was the first NWSL goal in her career.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
The Spirit celebrate after Sigvardsen Jensen’s goal in the 60th minute.

 

The Pride would get the goal back in the 86th minute when rookie Danica Evans slipped through the Spirit defense and around goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé for the equalizer. After a solid game as a backline, the Spirit could not control a late game Pride attack.
Labbé had a lighter workload this week as she was forced to make only five saves. Her biggest play of the evening came when she closed out Brazilian midfielder Marta, who was making her NWSL debut. Labbé’s effort caused Brazilian to shoot the potential game-winner just wide of the net.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit
Starting XI: Labbé; Zadorsky, Church, Johnson; Kallman, Sigvardsen, Mewis, Huster, Kleiner; Solaun, Stengel

The Spirit offense created more chances against the Pride, registering six shots on goal. Much of the offensive improvement came from the play of Havana Solaun and rookie Lindsay Agnew. Solaun made her first start of the year and Agnew made her professional debut coming on in the 19th minute after forward Katie Stengel went down with an injury. Agnew’s substitution marked the third the third injury substitution head coach Jim Gabarra has been forced in a little over 119 minutes of play. Despite the injury bug, Gabarra was upbeat about the team’s effort.

“It was a better performance than our first match, so it’s a step in the right direction,” Gabarra said.

Washington will be back in action on Saturday, April 29 as they host the Houston Dash at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The Dash are coming off of a 5-1 defeat on the road in Seattle. US national team goalkeeper Jane Campbell made her professional debut for the Dash in the loss. Kickoff for the April 29th matchup is set for 7 p.m.

Line Sigvardsen JensenPlayer Previews

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

Name: Line Sigvardsen Jensen

Hometown: Farsø, Denmark

Position: Midfield

College: N/A

Jensen during the match vs. Sky Blue on July 31, 2016.
Photo Credit: Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)

 

Last season: Line Sigvardsen Jensen signed with the Spirit halfway through the 2016 season to add depth in the midfield. She appeared in three matches, starting two of those games. She did not have a large impact on the lineup during her time on the field. Jensen did bring in Champions League experience after playing with Fortuna Hjørring since 2009.

2017 season: Jensen has started both preseason matches for the Spirit in 2017. It appears the Spirit will be sticking with a 3-5-2 formation meaning Jensen will find herself playing a more defensive role alongside Tori Huster. Jensen showed her range in the preseason match vs. the University of North Carolina as she hit a strike from around 40 yards out to chip the goalkeeper. In a deep midfield, Jensen will have to adapt to the North American style of play quickly if she wants to keep her spot in the starting XI.