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DC United sits with the Spirit at the bottom

DC United (5-15-4) played a most unusual match, losing 1-0 against Real Salt Lake (8-12-5) at RFK Stadium this past weekend. The match started Saturday with the possibility of threatening thunderstorms, and broke off abruptly on the heels of an hour-long drenching and lively display of lightning at the stadium. Such a spectacular dumping of water would not be complete without inches-deep waterfalls on the stairways and newly-visible watermarks two feet high in some of the hallways within the restricted access areas of the stadium.
After the rain had stopped, the field could not be drained well enough for a restart of the match, and the referee called for a postponement. Sunday at 7 p.m. found DC United resuming the match in front of a crowd so thin, that management requested people with seats higher up in the stands to move closer to the field.

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Spirit back on the bottom again

On Saturday, the Washington Spirit (4-9-4) took on the Boston Breakers (3-7-7). A win would have moved the Spirit into eighth place. Instead they came up with a 2-2 draw, dropping them back into last place in the league. While the Spirit has 16 points, the same number as the Boston Breakers, their larger negative goal differential, -7, puts them back on the bottom. It’s hard to see a team with a storied reputation for being formidable league leaders sitting at the bottom of the rankings.
The Spirit has played matches where it looks like they are going to turn a corner towards stringing some wins together. Most recently they played Sky Blue FC on Saturday, Aug. 4. They won that match 4-1. All four Spirit goals were in the second half showing off their physical stamina and mental willingness to play hard until the end.
Four days later, the team who had just crushed Sky Blue FC is playing the Orlando Pride in Orlando. Orlando, like Washington was coming into this match with only four days since their last match. The Pride controlled the pitch and left the Spirit with zero goals while scoring three of their own. Orlando added three points to their standings, the Spirit added none.

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Okay . . . we’ll call it a draw - Spirit vs. Pride

1010 20170708 Spirit vs PrideOrlando’s Alex Morgan and The Spirit’s Estelle Johnson (24) match strides during Morgan's attack on goal getting off her shot. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  BOYDS — The Washington Spirit took on the Orlando Pride this past Saturday in front of a home crowd of over 5200. At the end of the match, it was a draw, earning both teams one point in the league standings.
In the 10th minute of the match a penalty kick was awarded to the Pride. Brazilian soccer player Marta took the shot and put the Pride up 1-0 over the Spirit. Head coach Jim Gabarra said it was an “unearned penalty” that put the Pride up so early in the game.
For the next 10 minutes, the Spirit looked a bit flat. Marta went the other way and used the goal to energize herself. It was not very long, 10 minutes or so further into the match it all changed.

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Boston Breakers break Washington Spirit 1-0

Washington Spirit LogoAn ambitious Washington Spirit team (3-6-2) ended their 3-match undefeated streak, losing 1–0 against the Boston Breakers (3-6-3) on the Breakers home field. Now sitting at the bottom of the league, the Spirit have nowhere to go but up. Matches played away from their home field of Maureen Hendricks Field have not been good for the Spirit’s standings in the league. They have not won a match on the road this season.
The match in Boston was really a three-way match between the Breakers, the Spirit, and the wind whipping down the Charles River. Regular gusts were clocked at 20-plus miles per hour. In the first half, the winds worked in the Spirit’s favor; in the second half, not so much. Any ball lofted more than head height was subject to the whims of the wind. A ball set on the ground for play restarts, corner kicks, and goal kicks would not stay where placed if a gust of wind came in, and the wind came in often.

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The Washington Spirit dull the Thorns

1010b 20170624 Spirit vs ThornsThorns’ Amandine Henry (28) goes one-on-one with the Spirit's Cheyna Williams (20). Williams won possession but committed a foul, forcing a turnover of the ball over to the Thorns.    PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFEOn a gorgeous Saturday evening at Maureen Hendricks Field in Boyds, the Washington Spirit (3-5-2) defeated the Portland Thorns (4-3-3) 1-0 in front of 4,319 spectators.
Let me reemphasize that statement. The Spirit won! That makes three matches in a row where they have not been defeated this season. This is the best knitting of undefeated games by the Spirit yet this season. As a result, the Spirit is moving up in the standings as their injured players return to form on the pitch and the team continues to gel as an organized unit.

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The Canadian Connection

Labbé Zadorsky 1bThe Washington Spirit’s Shelina Zadorsky holds back the progress of an opposing player while teammate Stephanie Labbé goes for a grip on the ball, a familiar strategy that Labbé calls “for sure normal.” PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Canadians Stephanie Labbé and Shelina Zadorsky for an exclusive interview about their second year with the Washington Spirit as professional soccer players in the National Women’s Soccer League.
This year, Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra has implemented multiple systems of play. At least one of them features a three-back defensive line versus a more traditional four-back defensive line. I asked Labbé and Zadorsky their thoughts on this system.
Labbé said, “I think the four-back is more natural. I think growing up that’s what we play all through the youth systems. I think that the three-back, it’s a new system. If you tactically have the right coaching and can really structurally break it down and be efficient in it, I think the three-back is a great tool to have. You have to have the right players that can fit the positions of that. Defensively the four-back is much more natural to so many people. Your instincts just go with it a lot better so it is easier to play.”

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D.C. United dominates fourth round of tourney

1003 20170613 DCUnited vs FC CristosDC United's keeper Travis Worra lies injured on the ground as United's Robinson and Christos FC’s Levi Houapeu have a heated exchange as Worra's head was struck by Houapeu's knee during play. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  In front of 5,286 enthusiastic fans, amateur team Christos FC took on DC United in a fourth round play of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. While in the first half of the game it looked like Christos FC were going to provide DC United a potential loss, by the end of the match DC United stood tall, soundly drubbing the amateur team, 4-1.
There was no lack of support for the scrappy amateur team from north of Baltimore. Sponsored by a liquor store, Christos FC team members profess they do not practice much, because they all have full-time jobs. However, that did not stop them from getting through the first three rounds of playoffs in the USOC. Winning their third round earned them a chance to play against DC United.

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Spirit drop another one on the road to Kansas City

A rematch from one week earlier, the Washington Spirit (1-5-1) vs FC Kansas City (3-2-2) ended with the Spirit dropping the match 3-2 Saturday, losing another match by a single point. In previous years, the Spirit built a reputation of being a team who could beat anyone. This year is turning out very differently.

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Spirit wins, Pugh scores, expectations met

Corner Kick WashSpirit vs. Houston Dash 1 1477Spirit teammates swarm Mallory Pugh after she scores her first goal as a professional soccer player. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  BOYDS — On a beautiful summer evening at Maureen Hendricks Field in front of 3,096 fans, the Washington Spirit (2-5-1) outplayed the Houston Dash (2-6-0) for a 2-0 win.
Showcasing Mallory Pugh’s second start in the NWSL, the Spirit opened the match with speed and a dynamic attack. The speed caught the Dash by surprise and allowed Cheyna Williams to score the first goal of the game in the third minute. Havana Solaun of the Spirit provided the perfect pass to Williams that allowed her to slot the shot into the back of the net.
Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra had said two weeks earlier that when the team does not score in the first 20 minutes of home games, they tend to lose the match. The early goal by Williams was an excellent indicator of the final outcome.

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Will Pugh be the shot in the arm the Spirit need?

xSpirit vs FCKC 1b 20170520 Cheyna Williams follows the ball to the keepers box but is prevented from scoring by Becky Sauerbrunn and FCKC keeper Nicole Narnhart. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE   FC Kansas City (2-2-2), who had never defeated the Spirit on their home field, ended that streak this past weekend with a 1-0 win over the Spirit. It was FCKC’s second win of the season which puts them in sixth place in the National Women’s Soccer League.

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