In the only match during the FIFA International Break, the Washington Spirit will travel to New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC. Both teams are on losing streaks and are missing key pieces to their lineups.
Maddie and Tori Huster will become the first pair of sisters to take the field for the same team in NWSL history. Maddie was signed earlier this week as a national team replacement player. She was drafted in the third round of the 2018 NWSL Draft and has spent time with the Spirit Reserves in recent years.
QUESTIONABLE: Ashley Hatch (left hip flexor soreness), Tori Huster (right groin soreness), Kelsey Wys (right knee swelling)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Yanara Aedo (CHI), Rose Lavelle (USA), Francisca Ordega (NGA), Rebecca Quinn (CAN)
Key to Victory
Score. The Spirit have really struggled to score as of late and they are facing another snake bitten team. The last time out against Sky Blue, one goal was all the Spirit needed to get the victory. If they can get a goal despite a depleted front line, a win should be in order.
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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
Hometown: Temuco, Chile
#10 – Estefania Banini
Hometown: Mendoza, Argentina
#8 – Meggie Dougherty Howard
Hometown: Largo, Florida
#23 – Tori Huster
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
#16 – Rose Lavelle
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
#15 – Joanna Lohman
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
#12 – Morgan Profitt
Hometown: Columbus, Indiana
#9 – Havana Solaun
Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
#6 – Andi Sullivan
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!
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.