Photos by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Washington Spirit welcomed the North Carolina Courage to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday evening. In their first matchup of the regular season, the Spirit (1-2-0) fell to the visiting Courage (3-0-0) 4-2.
Washington opened up the scoring in the third minute off of a goal from Mallory Pugh. The Courage tied it up in the 20 minute on Crystal Dunn’s first career goal with North Carolina. Just four minutes later, a free kick goal from McCall Zerboni put the visitors ahead. Another goal from Zerboni and one more from Lynn Williams in the second half ultimately sank the Spirit. Despite a goal from Francisca Ordega in the 58 minute, a comeback just was not in the cards for the Spirit.
Set Play Goals Sink the Spirit
Of the four goals the Spirit gave up on Saturday night, two came off of set plays. The first goal from McCall Zerboni was off a free kick from just around 20 yards out. The free kick came from a mistake by Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who played the ball with her hands outside of the 18 yard box. Another mistake came in the wall placement and Zerboni was able to slip the ball around and into the back of the net.
The second goal for Zerboni came off of a corner kick. North Carolina moved the ball around well off of the corner and the Spirit failed to clear. The ball eventually was played across the six yard box and found a wide open Zerboni at the back post.
“I mean this is one of the best teams in our game on set plays and that was certainly a goal to not concede on a set play,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “But the first one, the wall was 15 yards away and it’s a bad mistake by our goalkeeper to give away a free kick there. So that could have been prevented by not giving them a free kick. If you get a properly set wall, maybe we get to block it. The other corner, that’s a mistake defensively, letting the player turn and drive the ball across the six.”
Partnership Forming On Left Side
While the Spirit have many new faces on the field, one partnership that is in full bloom is the one between Mallory Pugh and Caprice Dydasco. With Pugh playing in the midfield this week, the partnership was really highlighted.
In the first half, this combo was tearing up the North Carolina defense. However, it wasn’t until about halfway through the second half that the duo got going again. If they can continue the play, it’ll be a headache for the NWSL defenders going forward.
“Whoever you put out there with Caprice, Caprice finds a way to blend in and work well with whoever is out there,” Gabarra said. “I think with Mal out there, Mal is a similar case. It’s pretty easy to play with her, she’s such a good player. As we develop, we like to see those relationships throughout the group.”
Mallory Pugh Leaves Game With Injury
Spirit forward Mallory Pugh left the match in the 75 minute after pulling up because of an injury. While it is unknown what the injury is exactly, it appears to be on the right leg of Pugh. After exiting the game, Pugh was sporting an ice pack on her lower knee and upper shin area. She will be further evaluated this week.
The Spirit will head out to the west coast for their next match. Washington will travel to Providence Park to face the Portland Thorns on Friday, April 20. Kick-off for that match will be at 10:30 p.m. ET.
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.
With the 2018 season beginning on Saturday, Follow Your Spirit brings you a break down of each position group on the Washington Spirit. Finally, the forwards.
#17 – Cali Farquharson
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
#33 – Ashley Hatch
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona
#14 – Francisca Ordega
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Gboko, Nigeria
#11 – Mallory Pugh
- Age: 19
- Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
#2 – Arielle Ship
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Westlake Village, California
#88 – Tiffany Weimer
- Age: 33
- Hometown: Bridgeport, Connecticut
This will be a very interesting year for the Washington Spirit forward corps. After a down year offensively, the Spirit will need more production out of the forwards for the playoffs to be an option. Much like the midfielders, the personnel on the field will greatly depend on what formation is being played.
It is believed that Washington will begin the season playing in a 4-3-3. With that being said, it is most likely going to be Ashley Hatch, midfielder/forward Estefania Banini, and Mallory Pugh on the front line. Hatch gives the Spirit some height up front while Banini and Pugh bring the distribution and goal scoring abilities to the table. Much like in the preseason finale, Francisca Ordega will most likely be the go-to forward coming off the bench for head coach Jim Gabarra.
This lineup will also depend on national team camps. US head coach Jill Ellis has called up Hatch and Pugh for two April friendlies against Mexico. Arielle Ship will start the season on the 45-day disabled list and Cheyna Williams will take the year off because of maternity leave.
Player to Watch
In mid-January, the Spirit acquired Hatch from North Carolina. During the offseason, Hatch spent time with Melbourne City FC of the Australian W-League. Her team ended up winning the W-League title before she returned to the U.S. for preseason with Washington.
“My time in Australia was great,” Hatch said. “It was good to get more games in, more minutes and more touches on the ball just to stay fit and get more game experience. It was good to just progressing and hopefully, that will roll over into the season.”
In 2017, Hatch won the NWSL Rookie of the Year crown. She won the award after tying a league record for most goals by a rookie (7),
“Last year was a great season, I learned a lot but I still feel like there’s a lot more to learn and to improve as a player,” Hatch said. “It’s only my second year as a professional so I’m excited to come here, play with the Spirit, and hopefully help them improve from last season.
Washington will open up against the Seattle Reign on Saturday, March 24. Go90.com will have a stream of the game with kickoff coming at 10 p.m. ET.