Game Day CoverageMallory Pughmegan crossonsam staab

The 2019 NWSL season kicked off on Saturday night as the Washington Spirit played host to Sky Blue FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

The Washington Spirit opened up play at home on Saturday afternoon as they welcomed Sky Blue to the Maryland SoccerPlex. After a scoreless first half, the Spirit put away two goals to pick up their first win of the season. Rookie Sam Staab scored the opener in the 59th minute and Megan Crosson picked up her first goal for Washington in stoppage time. Aubrey Bledsoe got the shutout in goal to lead the Spirit to a 2-0 win.

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit Starting XI: Bledsoe; McGrady, Staab, Nielsen, Huster; DiBiasi, Sullivan, Dougherty-Howard; Matthews, Hatch, Pugh

Defense stands strong in opener

The backline for the Spirit consisted of two rookies and two others who had played next to no time on defense. Sam Staab and Tegan McGrady made their Spirit debuts on Saturday night after being drafted by Washington in January’s draft. Paige Nielsen, who has said she feels most comfortable at center back, played forward for most of her professional career before coming to D.C. this offseason.Then there is Tori Huster who has played in the Spirit midfield for years now but excelled at right back on Saturday night.

“I think we are doing really well,” Staab said after the game. “[McGrady] and I have actually known each other for a while but the rest of us it was just like a new season. We talk really well, communicate across the line and mesh really great during the game and just talk a lot. It feels great so far and it’s only the first game so just keep going up from there.

While this group does not have a lot of experience together, they looked put together and managed a shutout in the first game of the season. Sure, they were playing Sky Blue but they still did shutdown the attack for the visitors. Aubrey Bledsoe also did her part in goal, picking up two saves while also defending well on a six corner kick opportunities for Sky Blue. The Spirit will really be put to the test when they travel to Utah next week.

Mal Pugh impresses in season debut

Unlike most players in the NWSL, Mallory Pugh has the advantage of already playing in a number of games this season with the USWNT. She seemed to be in good form and it showed on Saturday. Her and Cheyna Matthews combined on a number of plays in the first half and were just a step away from having the opening goal of the season.

Late in the second half, Pugh drove towards the endline before crossing it in to Megan Crosson for the second goal of the game. This was a product of Pugh dropping a number of quality crosses into the box, but that time, they finally connected. It’s unfortunate that Pugh will miss a good portion of the next couple of months as she travels with the USWNT in preparation for the World Cup before heading to France.

“Yeah, I mean there was really only like a couple people in the box every attack,” Pugh said. “It was just something was telling me to whip it in and [Crosson] was like good thing I finished that one because the first one she didn’t finish. It was a great goal. She committed her run and I’m glad she scored it.”

Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit Megan Crosson celebrates after scoring her first goal of the 2019 season.

Next Up

The Washington Spirit will now travel to Utah to face the Royals on Saturday, April 20. Kickoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET.

Game Day CoverageGame PreviewMallory Pugh

The NWSL returns to action on Sunday night after being off for the Tournament of Nations. Washington will head out to Seattle to take on the Reign in the final game of the season between these two.


9:00 PM ET on Sunday, August 5, 2018


UW Medicine Pitch at Memorial Stadium in Seattle, Washington

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Rebecca Quinn; Francisca Ordega, Ashley Hatch, Tori Huster


For the first time since her injury at the end of May, Mallory Pugh has been taken off of the injury report. Pugh first was injured against the Houston Dash on Sunday, May 27 when she collided with Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell. After the game on July 21 against Houston, head coach Jim Gabarra said there was a possibility that Pugh could see time against the Reign.


OUT: Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Estefanía Banini (right MCL sprain), Tiffany Weimer (left knee Baker’s cyst – D45), Kelsey Wys (right knee meniscus scope)

QUESTIONABLE: Arielle Ship (right knee ACL recovery)


Key to Victory

Start out strong. The last time the Spirit played in Seattle, Megan Rapinoe put the Reign ahead just seven minutes into the match. Just 28 minutes later, Jodie Taylor doubled the lead with the help of Rapinoe. Joanna Lohman was able to get one back in the second half for the Spirit but it was too little too late. If the Spirit want to break their five plus year winless streak in Seattle, it has to start in the first half with a good, solid performance.



Follow @spiritcoverage and @jols98 for game updates and to keep your timeline to date with our Washington Spirit coverage on Twitter.

Francisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageGame PreviewMallory PughRebecca QuinnSchuyler DeBree

The Washington Spirit will return home on Saturday to take on the Chicago Red Stars in the Lifetime Game of the Week. In the first matchup between these two teams in late April, Francisca Ordega and Alyssa Mautz scored in a 1-1 draw.


3:50 PM ET on Saturday, June 2, 2018


Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland

Projected Starting Lineup

Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Rebecca Quinn, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Mallory Eubanks, Ashley Hatch, Estefania Banini


Rebecca Quinn and Francisca Ordega have been called up for their national teams in Canada and Nigeria respectively. Quinn will leave for camp with Canada at some point this week. Ordega has left the Spirit to travel to Nigeria for the FIFA Break. Schuyler DeBree has been signed as a National Team Replacement Player.


OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Mallory Pugh (right knee swelling), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: Tori Huster (right groin soreness)


Key to Victory

Put Pressure On Early. The Chicago Red Stars gave up five goals against Orlando last weekend. The Red Stars will be missing goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and defender/midfielder Julie Ertz missing this week. This means the Spirit need to put the pressure on rookie goalkeeper Emily Boyd and the backline early, especially with Mallory Pugh and Francisca Ordega out for this weekend. If they can get a goal early and keep Sam Kerr quiet, a point or more just might be in their future.




Follow @spiritcoverage and @jols98 for game updates and to keep your timeline to date with our Washington Spirit coverage on Twitter.


Ashley HatchAubrey BledsoeCaprice DydascoEstelle JohnsonGame Day CoverageJim GabarraMallory PughRebecca QuinnRose LavelleTaylor SmithWhitney Church

Last season, the Washington Spirit went 3-0 against Sky Blue FC. So with the Spirit desperately needing a win to help their season, a winless Sky Blue came to town. The Spirit turned in one of the better overall performances from the squad this season and picked up a 1-0 win on Wednesday night.

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

Both teams were unable to break the deadlock in the first half with each team having shots go off the woodwork. Coming out of the locker room, Spirit forward Ashley Hatch was firing on all cylinders. She would finally put one home in the 64th minute, proving to be the difference for Washington.

Defense Comes Up Big

In the past three games, the Spirit defense has allowed just two goals with one coming off of a free kick. Rebecca Quinn and Whitney Church’s partnership was proving to be a positive one and when Estelle Johnson came back into the lineup on Wednesday night for Quinn, the transition was seamless. Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe picked up her second shutout as a member of the Spirit in the 1-0 victory.

I think Aubrey has certainly stepped up in these past couple games and she hasn’t been making that one or two big mistakes that create a good chance or goal for the other team,” head coach Jim Gabarra said.

Aubrey Bledsoe was awarded the Spirit Squadron’s player of the match trophy following her shutout. Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

One of the biggest keys to the new found confidence of the backline was the decision to switch up which side the center backs were playing on. When Johnson was out because of injury, Quinn stepped in to play at center back. At that time, the Spirit played her at right center back alongside of Taylor Smith, while Church would be on the left with Caprice Dydasco. With Johnson returning, she slid into the right center back role to keep Church on the left.

“We wanted to put [Quinn] on the side with Taylor,” Gabarra said. “Then when we bring Estelle back in, you’re basically making two changes rather than one so we put Estelle [on the right side]. Estelle is more comfortable on the right anyways so it might stay that way. I think the important thing is the relationship between Whit and Estelle is very good and [Quinn] and Estelle have a good relationship with Taylor and Estelle and Whit have  a good relationship with [Dydasco]. Then that translates up to Tori and [Quinn] or Andi in the six role.”

Andi Sullivan Picks Up First Career Point

Mallory Pugh drew a foul in the attacking third for Washington roughly 63 minutes into the game. With it being too far out for a shot on goal, midfielder Andi Sullivan stepped up to take the kick. Sullivan played a well weighted ball towards the back post and found the head of Ashley Hatch. Hatch’s header would be good enough for the only goal of the game. With the assist, Sullivan picked up her first career professional point.

“Whit has been putting in some great services and I don’t know, for some reason I just felt inclined to take it and she let me which was great,” Sullivan said. “Then it was a little far out and we wanted to test their keeper but it was a little far and Mal looked at me and said serve it and I said ok. I think I like that service, like the back post bent service and Hatch is great in the air so I just looked to kind of hit it to that back six. It was one of those that as soon as it hit her head, I knew it was going in. So it was awesome, she is so good at that finish so I just wanted to serve it up to her.”

The goal was the first scored by the Spirit since April 28, a 1-1 draw vs. the Chicago. Hatch now has two goals on the year for Washington.

Mal did a good job of drawing the foul and Andi set up and I just wanted to start wide and run in on it,” Hatch said. “Andi put a perfect flighted ball and it was easy just to run in on it and tap it in.”

Rose Lavelle Makes Her Spirit Debut

Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle made her Spirit debut on Wednesday night, coming in for Estefania Banini in the 74th minute. Lavelle picked up her first NWSL minutes after having not played due to a hamstring injury since August of 2017. Her fresh legs helped the Spirit, who are playing three games in eight days.

“It felt really good,” Lavelle said. “I was really nervous going in because obviously I haven’t played in a about a lifetime. So I was really nervous but it’s the same game as before I got hurt. I just had to calm down and let my nerves settle and just enjoy the moment.”

Rose Lavelle warms up prior to her first game action with the Washington Spirit. Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

Next Up

Washington now heads to Houston on Sunday to take on the Dash. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 8 p.m. Houston sits just two points ahead of the Spirit and sit in 7th place.

Andi SullivanAubrey BledsoeEstefania BaniniEstelle JohnsonFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageMallory PughMeggie Dougherty HowardRebecca Quinn

The Washington Spirit returned home on Saturday evening to take on the Chicago Red Stars. Both teams scored a goal in the first half to finish the match in a 1-1 draw.

Francisca Ordega opened the scoring in the fourth minute to put Washington ahead 1-0. Ordega has now scored in three straight games. The Red Stars would get one back in the 20th minute off of a rebound that fell right to Alyssa Mautz. Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe made a play on the original ball but collided with Chicago forward Sam Kerr and was unable to recover for the second chance.

Starting XI: Bledsoe; Smith, Church, Johnson, Dydasco; Dougherty Howard, Sullivan, Huster; Ordega, Hatch, Pugh. Jordan Small | Follow Your Spirit

Aubrey Bledsoe Saves a Point Again

Last week, Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe stopped a penalty kick which secured a point for Washington. The save also was voted save of the week. Coming into the game against the Red Stars, it was expected that Bledsoe would play a big role in stopping Australian international and 2017 NWSL MVP Sam Kerr from scoring.

The biggest save of the day came just four minutes before halftime. Sam Johnson headed a Chicago corner kick on goal, forcing a save out of Bledsoe. On the goal line, Bledsoe extended out and got her fingertips to the ball, parrying it away. While the goal was not scored, play was stopped because Bledsoe’s lip was bleeding, a result of colliding with defender Caprice Dydasco on the play. The Spirit Squadron awarded Bledsoe the Player of the Match trophy after the game.

Another Week, Another Ordega Goal

Three straight weeks sees Francisca Ordega’s name on the scorers sheet for the Spirit. This week forward Mallory Pugh played a ball across the end line that Ordega was able to tuck home at the back post. The partnership between the two is flourishing at just the right time. At the beginning of the year, it was unclear if Ordega would make the starting XI for the squad. With Estefania Banini being away with national team commitments, Ordega really stepped up. It is hard to imagine Ordega leaving the lineup any time soon.

Ordega and Pugh celebrate Ordega’s first half goal. Kelley Piper | Follow Your Spirit

Rebecca Quinn Remains Out

For the third straight week, rookie Rebecca Quinn remains out because of an injury to the TFL muscle in her hip. While she was listed as questionable and did make the 18 player roster, Quinn did not see the field. The midfield has found its groove as of late with Tori Huster, Meggie Dougherty Howard, and Andi Sullivan. It would be nice to have Quinn back though to play on the backline alongside Estelle Johnson as a center back.

Next Up

Washington will travel to Utah to take on the Utah Royals for the first time in club history. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on May 5.

Andi SullivanAshley HatchAubrey BledsoeCaprice DydascoFrancisca OrdegaGame Day CoverageMallory PughMeggie Dougherty HowardRebecca Quinn

On the second road trip of the season, the Washington Spirit picked up their first road point with a 1-1 draw at the Portland Thorns.

The scoring happened all in the first half, but most of the opportunities came in the second. Francisca Ordega opened the scoring on a scrapy play in front in the 37th minute. In added time of the first half, Caprice Dydasco fouled Ifeoma Onumonu in the box. Thorns forward Christine Sinclair would convert the penalty to tie it up at one. The Thorns had a chance to win it in the 87th minute, but Lindsey Horan would have her penalty kick saved by Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe to keep it tied.

Aubrey Bledsoe Comes Up Big

Late in the game, with the Thorns on the attack, Aubrey Bledsoe was forced to come up with a big save after a potentially costly mistake. A ball was played into the box from deep and it was a race between Bledsoe and Thorns defender Emily Sonnett for the ball. Sonnett got there before Bledsoe, and the goalkeeper would then foul Sonnett.

After the nasty tackle, Bledsoe had to step up and try to save a penalty to keep her team tied. Lindsey Horan would step up, backup, restart her run, and eventually have her kick saved by Bledsoe. It was her second career penalty kick save.

Ordega Wreaks Havoc

Francisca Ordega opened the scoring in the 37th minute, her second on the season. Tori Huster’s corner was poorly cleared and it bounced to the center of the six yard box. Thorns goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom was unable to grab it and a scramble in the box lead to Ordega poking it through.

Ordega had multiple other chances and was difficult to slow down when she was running at the backline. WIth the Thorns playing only three in the back, the front line of Ordega, Mallory Pugh, and Ashley Hatch were able to get it going for much of the first half. The second half was not as strong, but the trio is really starting to come together.

Tori Huster Returns to the Starting XI

Spirit midfielder Tori Huster returned to the starting XI on Friday night. Huster, alongside of Andi Sullivan and Meggie Dougherty Howard, held down their area well against four midfielders for the Thorns. This greatly helped the defense of the Spirit, who, alongside of Aubrey Bledsoe, had a fairly quiet evening. If Rebecca Quinn remains injured, the Spirit will most likely stick with this trio.

Next Up

Washington will return home next weekend to take on the Chicago Red Stars. The match is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. on April 28.