Photos by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)
After a midweek win against Sky Blue at home, the Washington Spirit will head to Houston to take on the Dash. The Spirit will have a chance to move within four points of a playoff spot.
8:00 PM ET on Sunday, May 27, 2018
BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas
Projected Starting Lineup
Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Rebecca Quinn, Estefania Banini; Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega
With this being the third game in eight days for Washington, it is possible that the Spirit will have a very different looking lineup against the Dash. Head coach Jim Gabarra had mentioned after the Sky Blue game that the defense could see some different looks to get some players rest, specifically the outside backs of Caprice Dydasco and Taylor Smith. However, with the Spirit in dire need of points, Washington could go with a similar lineup as what was seen on Wednesday night.
OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury – D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None
Key to Victory
Stay Compact. The Spirit have done a good job of staying compact along the back line in the past three games. In those three games, they have only allowed two goals, with one coming off of a free kick. Taylor Smith and Caprice Dydasco have settled into their roles at outside back and have found the balance between attacking and defending. The center backs of Whitney Church, Rebecca Quinn, and Estelle Johnson have done well despite rotation due to injuries. If goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe can keep the backline in check in front of her, the Spirit could go on a run here at a time where they desperately need points.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
After a week off for a FIFA Break, the Washington Spirit return home to the Maryland SoccerPlex to take on the North Carolina Courage. This will be the first matchup of the regular season for the two teams. The two teams faced off in Richmond, VA in the preseason finale, a 3-0 win for North Carolina.
7:00 PM ET on Saturday, April 14, 2018
Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland.
Projected Starting Lineup
Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Havana Solaun; Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega
Rebecca Quinn is listed as out with a muscle strain in her hip. The Canadian international left the match early against Orlando on March 24. While Quinn traveled to France with the Canadian National Team, she did not see any time against France.
OUT: Rose Lavelle (left hamstring strain), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Rebecca Quinn (right TFL muscle strain), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)
QUESTIONABLE: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Yanara Aedo (CHI), Estefania Banini (ARG)
Key to Victory
Slow down the front line. When the Spirit played North Carolina in the preseason finale, the North Carolina front line tore the backline of the Spirit to shreds. If the Spirit want to come away with any points at all, it’s all about containing Lynn Williams and Crystal Dunn. But don’t get too focused on them because that is when Jessica McDonald will burn you. A strong performance from Church and Smith on the right side of the Spirit backline is vital.
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.
#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
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.”
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.