Photos by Kelley Piper (@kpiperphotos)
The Washington Spirit traveled to Utah to face off with the Royals for the first time in franchise history. Utah came out on top with a 2-0 victory.
Kelley O’Hara opened the scoring in the 7th minute when she snuck in behind the Spirit defense and beat Aubrey Bledsoe. Utah midfielder Diana Matheson doubled the scoring in the 66th when she beat Estelle Johnson to the ball. She then chipped Bledsoe for her first goal of the season.
Washington’s offense struggled mightily on Saturday evening. It was the first time all season that the Spirit failed to score a goal. Much of that had to do with the fact that the Spirit only managed to get one shot on goal of the 12 shots taken on the day. After being one of the top teams when it comes to shots taken this season, the Spirit were unable to muster much when it came to quality chances in the final third. Much of that had to do with the poor touches and passes that Washington had throughout the game. With the Spirit being shut out, Francisca Ordega’s goal scoring streak has officially come to an end.
Tori Huster Subbed Out Early
Tori Huster was subbed out after 36 minutes of play on Saturday. It did not appear as if she was injured. Rebecca Quinn replaced her, earning her first minutes since week 2 against Orlando. Huster did not seem to be playing her best soccer from the start but it was really problem as a whole. It is unclear if it was a tactical decision based on her play or an attempt to spark the rest of the team. Regardless, the play of the team did not appear to get much better when Quinn entered.
The Washington Spirit will continue the road trip when they take on North Carolina on Saturday, May 12. That match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:00 p.m. ET. It will be the third time since March that these two teams have met and the second time this regular season. In the first regular season matchup, the Spirit fell 4-2 at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
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 midfielders.
#27 – Yanara Aedo
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Temuco, Chile
#10 – Estefania Banini
- Age: 27
- Hometown: Mendoza, Argentina
#8 – Meggie Dougherty Howard
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Largo, Florida
#23 – Tori Huster
- Age: 28
- Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
#16 – Rose Lavelle
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
#15 – Joanna Lohman
- Age: 35
- Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
#12 – Morgan Profitt
- Age: 23
- Hometown: Columbus, Indiana
#9 – Havana Solaun
- Age: 25
- Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
#6 – Andi Sullivan
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Lorton, Virginia
With the number one overall draft pick, the Spirit selected Andi Sullivan. Washington also acquired Rose Lavelle from Boston in the dispersal draft. It is tough to say what the starting lineup will be with this group. It will come down to which formation head coach Jim Gabarra decides on. In years past and this year’s preseason, Gabarra has played with three in the midfield. If this is the case for this year, expect to see Andi Sullivan, Meggie Dougherty Howard and Havana Solaun in the midfield.
While Estefania Banini is listed as a midfielder on the roster, expect to see her as a forward in the 4-3-3 system. Lavelle did not play in either preseason match and is not expected to be ready right away. Once she returns, Gabarra will be faced with the decision of whether or not to switch to a 4-4-2 instead. The midfield group is the deepest of all of the positions, however, many players are very similar. There are four to five players who could be classified as defensive midfielders. It will be interesting to see how this plays into the offense dynamic of the team.
Player to Watch
Andi Sullivan, a Lorton, Virginia native, returns to Washington after four years on the west coast at Stanford. Sullivan played three seasons for the D.C. United Women and Spirit Reserves. With the number one pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft, Washington selected Sullivan to return to D.C.
“[Being picked first overall] was interesting,” Sullivan said after practice on Friday. “It’s funny, you dream about being a pro your whole life and to know it’s actually happening was very cool. I wish I could have been at the draft but I was in LA. I was hanging out with Savannah McCaskill, who got picked second, so that was pretty cool because it was a similar situation. There was just so much going on but it was obviously super exciting and I was just really happy.”
Unlike most rookies, Sullivan is very familiar with the city she was drafted by. It’s the small things in life that Sullivan is most relieved about.
“I love [being back in the area],” Sullivan said. “I think it’s also made this transition into pro life a lot easier being familiar with the area and a lot of the players and the facilities and everything. And the roads even, a lot of little things that you would maybe take for granted when you’re in a new place. It just feels like I’m back at home so it’s very comforting.”
Tomorrow’s preview will take a look at the forwards for the Spirit. This will be the final group preview before the season opener on Saturday, March 24.
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!
Follow Your Spirit: @SpiritCoverage
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.
Opening weekend of the 5th NWSL season did not go the way the Washington Spirit had planned. Two starters left the game before halftime with injuries and the team would end up losing to the North Carolina Courage 1-0 after being heavily outshot.
Just 19 minutes into the game, Joanna Lohman was forced to come off the field because of an injury. Lohman fell to the pitch in pain after attempting to continue playing despite injuring her knee minutes earlier. With Lohman down, the Courage took advantage of the situation. McCall Zerboni was able to get on the end of a Makenzy Doniak cross to put the visitors up 1-0. Things would go from bad to worse for the Spirit in the 38th minute. While attempting to block a cross, Cheyna Williams took a ball off her foot and ankle that would eventually lead to her being subbed off.
“Injuries happen. Certainly, in the first half it makes it difficult with your substitution pattern,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “So we were kind of behind the eight ball having to make two subs.”
The Spirit struggled to connect passes and keep possession in the first half, but showed signs of improvement in the second half, ending the game with a 53-46 percent possession advantage. Despite the possession advantage, North Carolina won the battle in the midfield using their diamond shape to disrupt the Spirit attack. Washington only managed 3 shots in the game, none of which were on frame, while the Courage picked up 21 total shots with 9 of those coming on net.
“[The Courage] were playing with a diamond in the midfield so they were overloaded and they were able to push us to one side and then find their extra person on the other side of the field pretty easily,” Spirit midfielder Tori Huster said. “We can’t make it that easy for them to switch the field. I think being so disjointed didn’t help our attack either. We weren’t close enough to each other to get something going forward. Being the playmakers in the midfield, we’ve got to get on the ball and help things going forward with our forwards.”
The best chance for the Spirit came in the 63rd minute when Huster played a through ball to Katie Stengel. Stengel rounded Courage goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, but her shot attempt went wide right.
“It’s a little discouraging,” Huster said. “I think there was one play where Stengel would want that one back, usually she’s right on it. It just was an unfortunate day today, a little bit unlucky with that.”
The lone bright spot for the Spirit was the play of goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Labbé had multiple highlight reel saves, racking up eight total saves on the afternoon.
“I think we left her out to dry way too many times,” Gabarra said. “To only concede one goal, I think that says a lot about her performance as a shot stopper and that’s something we knew was there. Overall, I thought she saved us on numerous occasions.”
The Spirit will be back in action on April 22 as they head to Orlando to face off against the Pride. Orlando is also coming off an opening weekend loss as they fell 2-0 to the Thorns in Portland on Saturday night. The Spirit vs. Pride game will be available on Lifetime as part of the NWSL Game of the Week. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET.
As the 2017 NWSL season approaches, we will be rolling out profiles on the 2017 Washington Spirit roster.
Name: Tori Huster
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
College: Florida State University
Last season: Tori Huster played and started in 19 regular season games in 2016, recording a goal and an assist. Huster played in all 120+ minutes for the Spirit in both postseason matches. Of the players on the 2016 roster, Huster recorded the most minutes played. As the defensive component in the triangle midfield, Huster played with Joanna Lohman and Christine Nairn.
2017 season: Huster has been widely considered one of the top contenders to take over the captain’s armband after the departure of Ali Krieger. Even if she does not get the official position, Huster will still be an instrumental leader, especially in a vastly new midfield. Look for Huster to be the stable rock in the defensive midfield role, connecting the backline to the attack.
A short while ago, Tori Huster joined the podcast to update us on her off-season, her comments on recent trades, and how she got involved with The Young and The Brave.
The off-season has not been kind to loyal Spirit fans, but Tori reminds us that the Washington Spirit are still a talented team with plenty of potential.
When you’re finished with this episode, please leave a comment and tell us which player you’d like to hear from in the off-season. We’ll see if we can get them on the podcast soon.