Arielle ShipAshley HatchCali FarquharsonCheyna WilliamsFrancisca OrdegaMallory PughPosition Previews

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.

The Group

#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

Expectations

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.

Next Up

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.

Caprice DydascoEstelle JohnsonPosition PreviewsRebecca QuinnTaylor SmithWhitney Church

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 defenders.

The Group

#5 – Whitney Church

  • Age: 24
  • Hometown: Ashburn, Virginia

#3 – Caprice Dydasco

  • Age: 24
  • Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii

#24 – Estelle Johnson

  • Age: 29
  • Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado

#4 – Rebecca Quinn

  • Age: 22
  • Hometown: Toronto, Canada

#7 – Taylor Smith

  • Age: 24
  • Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Expectations

This offseason, the Spirit acquired Taylor Smith in a trade with North Carolina. They also added Rebecca Quinn with the number 3 overall draft pick. While the Spirit didn’t do a lot to improve their defense, the small changes will definitely help moving into 2018. Looking at the first game of the season, expect Smith to be at right back, Quinn to be at right center back, Estelle Johnson at left center back, and Caprice Dydasco at left back.

The biggest concern with this group is going to be that right side for a few different reasons. In the one preseason game where all five of these players saw time, they allowed three goals. Smith is great at getting forward and up into the play but has struggled at times getting back against tougher opponents. Also, while Quinn plays at center back for Canada, she has mentioned that she enjoys playing in the midfield role more, a spot she occupied regularly at Duke. With national team games happening frequently throughout the season as World Cup qualifiers approach, the Spirit will struggle to field a backline. Quinn and Smith have both been consistent call-ups over the past year and will likely continue to be in 2018. Luckily for the Spirit, there are midfielders on the roster that have experience playing on the backline.

Player to Watch

Rebecca Quinn has been capped by the Canadian National Team 37 times in her senior career. Since the Rio Olympics, Quinn has become a consistent name on the backline for Canada. With that comes a lot of lessons and leadership opportunities.

“I mean a lot of good takeaways from being with the national team. I think leadership is a big one. I’ve had to play a leadership role on the national team playing center back at a pretty young age so I think coming in as a rookie to the NWSL, I can show a bit of that as well. Then I think just playing with high-quality players. I mean the U.S., number one team in the world and playing against their national team on a regular basis will only be good for me going into France in 2019.”

Next Up

Tomorrow’s preview will take a look at the midfield for the Spirit. This is the largest position group for Washington and one that head coach Jim Gabarra has talked a lot about since the draft.

Aubrey BledsoeDiDi HaracicKelsey WysPosition Previews

With the 2018 season beginning on Saturday, Follow Your Spirit brings you a break down of each position group on the Washington Spirit. First up, the goalkeepers.

The Group

#1 – Aubrey Bledsoe

  • Age: 26
  • Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

#21 – DiDi Haracic

  • Age: 25
  • Hometown: Round Hill, Virginia

#19 – Kelsey Wys

  • Age: 27
  • Hometown: Coral Springs, Florida

Expectations

On January 23, 2018, the Washington Spirit traded for a new number one goalkeeper. Aubrey Bledsoe, who started 11 games for Orlando in 2017, would replace Stephanie Labbé. Despite some less than stellar numbers in the preseason, expect Bledsoe to have a solid season between the pipes for Washington.

The more interesting aspect of this group is who will be the backup. It was unclear who would get the number two spot for 2018. When the roster was released Monday afternoon, the picture was as blurry as ever. With both DiDi Haracic and Kelsey Wys making the roster, it appears as if the competition will stem through at least the first month of the year. While Haracic played seven games in 2017, Wys was held out as she continued to recover from an ACL tear in late 2016. The biggest question going forward is how close to 100 percent is Kelsey Wys.

Player to Watch

Aubrey Bledsoe is the player to watch in 2018. The biggest question is how she will handle being the outright starter from day 1.

“I’ve been wanting to get minutes in the NWSL for a couple years now,” Bledsoe said after the last preseason game. “As a backup keeper, it’s all about being ready for an opportunity when it comes and it came. I thought I did fairly well. Every game I progressed and tried to take something and add it to my game. Now I’m a completely different player, much more confident, better with my feet, reading the game, just the speed of play, I’ve adjusted to it a bit and I’m excited to step into the Spirit this year and it’s an opportunity to be the outright starter. I’m really excited for that and hopefully, I can lead the defense and have a good season here with the Spirit.”

Bledsoe played for Sydney FC of the Australian W-League in the offseason. Bledsoe found out about the trade while still playing in Australia.

“I was excited,” Bledsoe said. “I got a call in the middle of the night from Coach Sermanni. I’d actually missed his call earlier and I knew I was traded so I stayed up really late till he called me back and I was just like ‘what team, what team?’ I figured there was a chance it could be the Spirit. I actually played for Jim [Gabarra] my rookie year at Sky Blue in New Jersey. So I talked to Tom and then Jim called me right away and it was a short conversation because I was really tired.”

Next Up

Tomorrow’s preview will take a look at the defense for the Spirit. With new faces and limited numbers, this is one of the position groups with the most change heading into 2018.