Jordan Small and Timothy Lawson connect after four weeks since the last podcast. The two hosts cover every bit of news that has released in February, plus a couple announcements for Follow Your Spirit. Enjoy!
On Saturday afternoon, the league-leading North Carolina Courage played host to the visiting Washington Spirit. The Courage came away with all three points in a 2-0 victory in front of 3530 fans at the WakeMed Soccer Park.
After the first 10 minutes of the match, the Washington Spirit took control of the game. The Spirit’s backline of Estelle Johnson, Shelina Zadorsky, Kassey Kallman and Caprice Dydasco was able to limit the strong attack of the Courage to just one shot on goal in the first half. However, to start the second half, Estelle Johnson was replaced by Alyssa Kleiner because of an illness.
“She felt sick to her stomach, like she was going to throw up,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “It was probably 20 minutes in. We checked her at the water break and wanted to get her through halftime. At halftime, we didn’t want to put her out there in a depleted situation where she was dehydrated and didn’t feel good.”
When the second half kicked off, the Courage came out fired up. Within the first minute, the ball was played out wide to Kristen Hamilton. Hamilton played the ball across the box and after multiple missed clearances by the Washington defense, forward Ashley Hatch slotted her shot past Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to give the Courage a 1-0 lead.
“The first one was right off the kickoff. It felt like they were dribbling and the seas kind of opened. No one was really stepping to put pressure on it and we were a bit passive and on our heels a bit on that,” Labbé said. “It’s just a quick reminder that coming out in the second half, just because the first half went well, you have to put in the hard work at the beginning of the second half to make sure you’re up at that level again.”
In the 84th minute, the Spirit put themselves in an even deeper hole with an own goal. North Carolina’s Sam Mewis played in a corner kick that bounced around in the box with multiple failed clearances by the Spirit. A clearance off the line from Cali Farquharson deflected off the face of Kallman before finding the back of the net.
Prior to the game, the Spirit announced that midfielder Kristie Mewis would be unavailable for the match because of an upcoming trade. It appears as if the trade will be announced on Monday.
“We’re in a situation where we have some extra depth and if we can get some good value for players maybe moving to a team that’s got something to play for to get into the playoffs and get a piece or a draft pick for the future that’s going to help us next year,” Gabarra said after the game. “Yeah, we’re not giving up on this year and looking towards next year but at the same time, you have to take advantage of the assets you have and if someone is interested in a player and they come to us, we’re going to consider it.”
Washington returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, August 26 to take on the Chicago Red Stars. For that match, Francisca Ordega and Kelsey Wys could be off the 45-day disabled list, according to Gabarra. Kickoff for the match is 7 p.m.
The Washington Spirit traveled to Texas to face the Houston Dash on Saturday night. Houston scored in the 24th and 54th minutes to take a 2-0 over the Spirit. The Spirit cut the lead in half in the 75th minute, but it would be too little, too late for Washington as they began their four game road trip with a 2-1 loss to Houston.
While the Spirit outshot Houston, rookie goalkeeper Jane Campbell came up big for the Dash in net. Her eight-save performance was the difference maker in the hard fought match. The goalkeepers were the story of the match with Stephanie Labbé racking up six saves of her own. Both goalkeepers had huge saves in the first half to keep their teams in the game.
Houston opened the scoring in the 24th minute off of a corner kick. Canadian international Janine Beckie whipped in a cross that was flicked on net by the head of Brazilian Poliana. Poliana’s header spun hard off the wet grass and past a diving Labbé. The Dash would double their lead in the 54th minute when Andressinha fired a rocket off of a pass from Rachel Daly.
In the 75th minute, the Spirit would get one back from an unlikely goal scorer. Defender Estelle Johnson snuck a shot near post on Campbell for her first goal of the year. After making a run across the box, Havana Solaun played a ball in for Johnson who caught Campbell leaning.
Overall, the game was a disappointing one for the Spirit. In desperate need of three points, Washington looked disjointed for much of the match, struggling to string together passes. When they would get into the final third, a lackluster effort resulted in many shots going right to Campbell for fairly easy saves.
The Spirit continue their four game road trip next weekend as they travel to Providence Park to take on the Portland Thorns. Washington is 0-4-2 on the road this season while Portland is 5-1-1 at home. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET.
For the first time this season, the Washington Spirit entered a match on a two-game unbeaten streak. After a 1-1 draw in Chicago, the Spirit returned home to host the 4th place Portland Thorns in front of 4,319 fans at the Maryland SoccerPlex. A goal in the 19th minute from Francisca Ordega would be all Washington would need to pick up three points in a 1-0 victory.
Ordega would notch her team-leading fourth goal of the year on a highlight reel play. The Nigerian international picked the pocket of Thorns midfielder Allie Long just inside the Portland side of half field. After breaking past Long, Ordega then went on to twist and turn the Thorns’ backline. Washington would get on the board as Ordega rocketed a shot past the outstretched arms of Portland goalkeeper Adriana Franch.
“Franny is extremely physical, she’s very fast, and she’s done a very good job of getting in behind the line,” Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra said after the game. “She’s picked up her game, her movement off the ball and her ability to press in an organized fashion. She’s been rewarded with starts and minutes and goals.”
This weekend’s goal was an extra special one for Ordega. On June 25, 2015, Ordega’s sister Elizabeth tragically passed away. Two years later, Ordega uses her sister’s memory to inspire her and continue to get better.
“I’m like, if I can play my best today and score, definitely I’m going to dedicate the goal to her. I have to do [well] so she can be proud of me and [I can] make myself happy,” Ordega said. “I keep dreaming of her, she motivated me a lot. The only thing that will make her happy, wherever she is, is just for me to be happy.”
The shutout marked the second in three games for the Spirit. Over the three-game span, the Spirit have scored three goals while allowing just one, a penalty kick to Chicago’s Christen Press. As the season hits the halfway mark, the defense for the Spirit has become much more solid.
“I think we did a very good job of team defending and understanding zones and lines,” Gabarra said. “It started last game in Chicago and I think it got a little bit better tonight. But it’s something that comes from playing together, the same group of players and getting an understanding defensively of each other.”
For the first time all season, Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé had a very quiet game, something that she welcomed.
“That was awesome,” Labbé said. “I can’t even remember having to make a dive at all in that game so that was great.”
The victory also marked the return of midfielder Tori Huster, who had been sidelined for four games with a right quad injury. While she might not have mad it onto the stat sheet, the impact of Huster’s game was noticeable to those watching the game. The midfield was able to effectively shut down the star-studded Portland offense.
“I really wanted her back last game,” Gabarra said. “Chicago’s got one of the better midfields and Portland’s got probably one of the best midfields in the league. To have Tori’s experience and her bite and ball winning abilities in there was huge for us. I think she was probably not as sharp as she had been when she had been usually playing.”
Riding a three-game point streak, the Spirit will travel to Boston to take on the struggling Breakers. The match is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 1. Boston will travel to Houston to take on the Dash on Wednesday of this week.
After a week off for the first international break, the Washington Spirit were back in action on Saturday afternoon to take on the Chicago Red Stars. Francisca Ordega scored for the Spirit, but a goal from Christen Press saw the Spirit leaving Chicago with just one point after a 1-1 draw.
Ordega opened the scoring in the 42nd minute off of a well timed through ball from Cheyna Williams. The ball just sneaked around Red Stars defender Sam Johnson and Ordega was able to peel off her mark to receive the pass. After winning the foot race, Ordega tucked the ball around goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for the first goal of the game.
It looked as if the Spirit would walk away with three points on the road, but an ill-timed tackle in the box from Shelina Zadorsky resulted in a penalty kick. Christen Press, who was fouled by Zadorsky, stepped up to take the kick and beat goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé for the equalizer.
While Labbé gave up the goal on a penalty kick she turned in another solid performance for her squad. She recorded three saves on four shots on goal from Chicago. Her biggest save of the afternoon came in the 51st minute off of a shot from Chicago midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo.
The lineup for the Spirit was a bit different on Saturday as Mallory Pugh was out with an ankle injury sustained with the USWNT and Tori Huster remains out with a right quad injury. Defender Kassey Kallman made her return to the lineup after not being used since the Seattle match five weeks ago. Caprice Dydasco returned to the pitch for the first time following an ACL tear in the 2016 NWSL Championship match last October. She entered the match in the 61st minute and did not appear to be restricted in any manner.
Washington returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex this Saturday as they take on the fourth place Portland Thorns. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Spirit Squadron will be hosting their annual Pride Night at this match.
After three straight losses, the Washington Spirit found themselves on the winning side of things Saturday evening at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Goals from Cheyna Williams and Mallory Pugh coupled with a strong performance from goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé helped Washington get by the Houston Dash 2-0 in front of 3096 fans.
For the second straight week, the Spirit picked up an early goal to take a 1-0 advantage. Washington took the lead in the 3rd minute after a well timed through ball from midfielder Havana Solaun found Williams for her first goal of the season.
“It just happened really quick,” Williams said. “We talked about how we just wanted to attack today, we wanted to come out explosive. Havana played a great ball and I was like shoot, all I have to do is finish it. I know it’s early but just finish on one play at a time and that’s kinda what it was like.”
Unlike the game in Kansas City the week before, the Spirit were able to hold on to the lead heading into halftime. Strong performances from all parts of the field played a big part in holding the lead. While the team made adjustments from last week to improve in this area of their game, head coach Jim Gabarra stills wants his side to do a better job at maintaining a lead.
“I thought we probably could have put the game away in the first ten or fifteen minutes but we kind of let them in it so it’s something we are going to address and kind of a little bit of a killer instinct, continue to attack and score even if you’re ahead,” Gabarra said after the game. “After you score a goal, you should have energy and you should actually try and get a second goal right away, rather than kind of relax and take a rest and a pause. It’s definitely better than it has been in the last Kansas City game and it’s also an area that we can improve upon.”
The Spirit would double the lead in the 69th minute when Mallory Pugh scored her first professional goal. Pugh’s goal came after a well-organized passing sequence saw six different players make a pass before the 19-year-old slotted the shot through Dash goalkeeper Lydia Williams’ legs. With her goal, Pugh became the youngest player to ever score in the NWSL.
“It’s cool, especially against this intense team and in this league,” Pugh said. “There’s great players and to be able to score in this league, it’s super special. In practice, we were working on those types of shots, when it comes across your body and you want to place it back where it came from. I was hoping for it to go, just curl it into the back post, but it went through her legs and went in.”
For the Spirit, the shutout was the first of the season. After giving up 13 goals in the last four games, it appeared as if a shutout would not be coming. However, the Washington backline came together with Labbé to put in the group’s best overall performance of the season.
“I’m really happy right now. Getting a shutout feels really good,” Labbé said. “As a goalkeeper and part of a backline that’s what you strive every day to get. Getting that is a big relief. Just like all year, we just keep trucking and keep working. I think defensively today we were much tighter and seemed to have better connection within the full team. I think that’s what led to that shutout.”
The league will now go on break as many national teams are participating in friendly matches during this week’s FIFA window. Labbé, midfielder Lindsey Agnew and defender Shelina Zadorsky have been called up to the Canadian National team for two matches vs. Costa Rica on June 8 and 11. Pugh has also been called up to represent her national team as the United States will travel to Scandinavia to take on Sweden and Norway on June 8 and 11, respectively.
“For me, I’m just excited to get back with that team and that environment,” Labbé said of the upcoming friendlies. “Those girls are some of my best friends and I’ve been on that team for so long. So just to get back with that group of girls and enjoy it for what it is and just kind of be present when I’m there and take it all in and then come back with the Spirit.”
Washington will return to action on June 17 when they travel to Chicago to take on the Red Stars. That match is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET and can be found on Lifetime as part of the Game of the Week series. The Spirit will then return to the Maryland SoccerPlex on June 24 as they host Allie Long and the Portland Thorns.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
After scoring just one goal in the first three games of the season, the Washington Spirit attack opened up for four goals in a 4-3 win over Sky Blue on Saturday night. The win moved the Spirit up the table from 9th place to 7th place at the end of Saturday.
Francisca Ordega opened up the scoring for the Spirit in the 6th minute off of a pass from midfielder Line Sigvardsen. She netted her second goal of the game in the 56th minute, which would be the eventual game winner. Ordega would also add an assist on Havana Solaun’s goal in the 34th minute and force an own goal from Sky Blue.
“To see her individual effort on at least two of the goals was pretty awesome,” Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé said in the post game media scrum. “You could see that she was a big threat to them and they were having trouble dealing with her strength and her speed. It’s fun to see a player have those games and you know, it doesn’t happen all the time, but to see a player kind of on their game and just feeling it, I think it’s really fun to watch.”
Despite giving up three goals in the match, the Spirit held on to a one-goal lead for the last 20 minutes. This was in part thanks to the play of veterans Labbé and defender Estelle Johnson.
“I think the experience back there made a huge difference keeping us calm,” head coach Jim Gabarra said after the game. “Also the whole team learned a valuable lesson in the Orlando match where I think we got a little frantic, we got a little over anxious going forward and we didn’t really keep our shape and really focus on defending. I think it’s great to have an experienced player like Estelle [Johnson], who’s been through these many, many games and many situations where you’re trying to protect a one-goal lead.”
The outburst of scoring was a welcome sign, relieving some of the pressure on the backline. Labbé was proud of the performance, despite the team allowing three goals.
“It’s a big relief. I think, you know, it’s been a long time coming,” Labbé said. “We’ve been putting in a lot of work. The biggest thing is to get it at home. I think stepping out here today, we really wanted to score for our fans and give them something to cheer for and we gave them that four times today.”
The Spirit return to action next Saturday when they travel to the west coast for the first time this season to take on the Seattle Reign. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. EST. Seattle is coming off of a 2-2 tie in Portland. Soccer returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, May 20 as the Spirit play host to FC Kansas City.
For the second time in the past three matches, the Spirit lost 1-0. Kealia Ohai put the Houston Dash ahead in the 28th minute, a lead they would never relinquish. A strong performance from the Dash defense and a less than stellar showing from the Spirit attack resulted in Washington falling at home once again.
Coming into the match, the Spirit dressed only 16 players because of a growing list of injuries. Lindsay Agnew made her first career start up top with Francisca Ordega, one of many areas where head coach Jim Gabarra felt unfamiliarity hurt his side.
“It’s probably a lot of players it’s their first time playing in a league match, it’s their first time in a starting role,” Gabarra said in the post-game media scrum. “I mean we had [Ordega] and [Agnew] playing together, they never played together. [Solaun] was playing in the attacking midfield role, she hasn’t played that much in there.”
Saturday’s match marked the first time this season that the Spirit did not have to make a sub because of injury in the first half. This came as a relief for Gabarra.
“It was wonderful. I wanted to have four [subs] so I could get Cam [Castleberry] in there but you only have three,” Gabarra said. “I think we’ve turned the corner, knock on wood.”
While the offensive side of the ball was not connecting in the final third, the play of the defense and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé was a positive takeaway from the match. The Spirit have conceded just three goals this season over three games.
“I think our defending and our goalkeeping has been very good all three games,” Gabarra said. “That’s been a real good constant for us.”
The play of Labbé has kept the Spirit in all three games this season. She is second in the league with 17 saves on 20 shots. Despite the heavier workload, Labbé has embraced her role on the team.
“Unfortunately I’m getting more shots than I hope and having to make more saves than I want,” Labbé said after the game. “But that’s a part of the game and if that’s my role this year, I’ve said it before, I’m ready to take that on.”
Another player that has stepped up for the Spirit in recent weeks is defender Estelle Johnson. She has played as an outside back in the three back system, often drawing the assignment of the opposing team’s best forwards. Johnson has been forced to relearn the outside back position after not seeing time there in a quite a while.
“It’s so different. I have to revert back to freshman year of college, the one year I ever played outside back,” Johnson said when addressing the media after the game. “I played it in Philly in the WPS for like half a season. It’s just learning the game. I know what I should do but my body does different things sometimes. I think just staying focused and being prepared for the game will help.”
Despite having one of the stingiest defenses in the league, the Spirit have struggled to pick up points because of a lack of scoring. This is something the team is looking to improve on before welcoming Sky Blue to town next weekend. Sky Blue and Washington will face off at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, May 6. The match, which was originally scheduled for 4 p.m., has been rescheduled to 7 p.m.
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.
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.
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.