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Washington Spirit and Seattle Reign FC fight to a draw

The Spirit’s Audrey Bledsoe shows how she became the keeper with the most saves in the NWSL, wrapping herself around the ball, preventing the attack of Reign forward Jodie Taylor. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFEThe Spirit’s Audrey Bledsoe shows how she became the keeper with the most saves in the NWSL, wrapping herself around the ball, preventing the attack of Reign forward Jodie Taylor. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  BOYDS — Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the Washington Spirit held the second-place ranked team in the National Women’s Soccer League to a score of nil. On the flip side, the visiting Reign FC held the Spirit to nil as well. Both teams walked away with a point in the standings.
Saturday must have been a day of miracles. On the opposite side of the globe in the World Cup competition, Iceland held off Argentina and the man of legends Lionel Messi for a 1-1 draw. Closer to home, the Utah Royals stunned the North Carolina Courage, the league leader in points for the NWSL, with a 1-0 win over the Courage in North Carolina. What a day for unexpected outcomes.
Back to the game at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the Spirit’s star keeper Audrey Bledsoe now leads the league with saves. Bledsoe continues to improve with each match, moving up the ranks of keepers in the NWSL. Although she embodies trace amounts of the looks and attitude of her mentor last season, Orlando Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris, she developed her own style on the pitch that works well. The draw against Seattle added another shutout to her record for a total of four for this season.

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Chicago Red Stars hand Washington Spirit another loss, 2-0

Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington SpiritBOYDS — Playing against a team that had a seven-game losing streak with a rookie keeper in the net, during an incredible downpour of rain, the Washington Spirit lost yet another match.
The Chicago Red Stars handed the Spirit another defeat, 2-0, on the Spirit’s home turf no less, and ready to start a winning streak. The Red Stars head back to Chicago with 3 new points towards improvement in the National Women’s Soccer League standings while the Spirit picked up zero.
Locally the weather has been nothing but wet all week and match day was no exception. Partly sunny skies during on field warmups turned cloudy when dark storm clouds marched in from the East. As the teams stood for the playing of the national anthem ready for the start of the game, the rain began.

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Despite loss to Portland, Spirit is coming together through experience

The Spirit's defense comes alive near the goal in a game against the Portland Thorns. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFEThe Washington Spirit's defense comes alive near the goal in a game against the Portland Thorns. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFEAs of Saturday, the Washington Spirit has fallen to eighth place in the National Women’s Soccer League, when they dropped their latest match against the Portland Thorns 1-0.
It took the Thorns until the 68th minute to score their one goal. With one keeper and two defensive players backing her up, a pass from Tobin Heath to Ellie Carpenter was placed perfectly for Carpenter nick it into the net. As the ball started rolling back out of the net, Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe and two defenders could be seen lying face down on the ground right where they landed trying to stop the ball.
Throughout the match, the Spirit missed out on at least three excellent chances to score, including a penalty kick, but the strikes were just off target, either over the top of the frame or wide. The accuracy just was not there.
As the rain came down in a heavy drizzle that just would not relent, the last 15 minutes of the second half saw a flurry of activity from the Spirit, forcing the Thorns into a bunkering position to protect their one-goal lead. The Spirit turned on the aggression and kept the pressure on the Thorns on their side of the field. The excitement of the Spirit potentially scoring a leveling goal was felt throughout the crowd right until the referee blew the final whistle in penalty time.

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Utah Royals FC clean the pitch with the Spirit

Washington Spirit vs. Utah Royals FCThe Washington Spirit (1-3-2) fell to the first-year team of the Utah Royals FC (1-1-4) this past Saturday, 2-0, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. It was the first-ever win for the Royals and both goals came from players previously coached by Spirit Head Coach Jim Gabarra.
Using a Spirit tactic of scoring early, Utah forward Kelly O’Hara took a pass from fellow teammate Amy Rodriguez and slipped the ball into the back of the net past the Spirit’s defense, her first goal as a Utah Royals player. Before joining the Royals, O’Hara played for Sky Blue FC during Gabarra’s tenure as head coach of that National Women’s Soccer League team.
When halftime arrived, the score had not changed; it was still 1-0 in favor of the Royals.

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Washington Spirit play Chicago Red Stars to a draw

Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington SpiritDuring the wind and rain at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, the Washington Spirit played the Chicago Red Stars to a draw, 1-1.
Starting hard and fast, the Washington Spirit (1-2-2) gained control of the ball and scored the first goal of the match early on against the Chicago Red Stars (2-1-3). In the fourth minute, Spirit forward and U.S. international player Mallory Pugh brought the ball on a solo trip up the right side of the field, turned toward net at the penalty box and crossed the ball right in front of Red Star keeper Alyssa Naehr.
Open Spirit forward Frannie Ordega collected the ball just outside the frame and booted it and herself into the back of the net. The ball got to the back of the net first. In a surprise repeat of an early goal in another recent match, the Spirit had cashed in on an early opportunity, stunning the opposition. Ordgea scored her third goal in three matches, and the Spirit were up one to nil over the Red Stars with 86 long minutes ahead of them.

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Despite resolve, NC Courage tops Washington Spirit, 4-2

Spirit forward Frannie Ordega dashes between Courage players Denise O’Sullivan (8) and Merritt Mathias (11), on her way to an on-target shot on goal, blocked by keeper Sabrina D’Angelo. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFESpirit forward Frannie Ordega dashes between Courage players Denise O’Sullivan (8) and Merritt Mathias (11), on her way to an on-target shot on goal, blocked by keeper Sabrina D’Angelo. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  BOYDS — Perfect weather did not bring perfect play to a tight match between the Washington Spirit (1-2-0) and the undefeated North Carolina Courage (3-0-0). In front of 3400-plus spectators, the visiting Courage robbed the Spirit of a home match win by 4-2.
Experts predicted the Spirit would be doing well to score a single goal against a team that has allowed no goals scored against them during regular season play. The Spirit surprised everyone by not only being the first team to score against the Courage, they did it in the first three minutes of the match.
Spirit forward and U.S. international player Mallory Pugh broke the clean-sheet streak of the Courage with the Spirit’s first goal. Courage keeper Sabrina D'Angelo did everything she could to block the unassisted shot by Pugh, but there’s no shame in losing to one the world’s most formidable forward players.

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Washington Spirit wounds Orlando’s Pride, 2-0

Washington Spirit’s Mallory Pugh (11) moves the ball deftly towards the goal with Orlando Pride’s Ali Krieger (11) right behind her trying to end the run. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFEWashington Spirit’s Mallory Pugh (11) moves the ball deftly towards the goal with Orlando Pride’s Ali Krieger (11) right behind her trying to end the run. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  In a startling outcome, the Washington Spirit (1-1-0) outplayed the Orlando Pride (0-1-1) this past Saturday in a 2-0 win over the visiting Orlando team. Playing in front of 4,989 spectators, the Spirit played a back-and-forth match of relatively even moves with the Pride until the 80th minute.
The Pride, failing to mark U.S. international player Mallory Pugh as tightly as they had earlier in the match, opened a canyon of space for Pugh. Pugh, with possession of the ball off a pass from Ashely Hatch, did what she usually does: maneuver the ball faster and better than everyone else on the pitch.
Pugh outran the Pride’s Alex Krieger, who was closing in from behind. She outpaced,Canadian international player Shelina Zadorsky, the Pride’s center back defender, who ran parallel to Pugh but unable to get close enough. At the last moment of open space between her and the net, she lit off a shot that nutmegged keeper Ashlyn Harris and stopped in the back of the net. She scored the first goal of the match in the 80th minute. The Spirit were ahead 1-0 over the Pride.

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Seattle Reigns over Washington Spirit

Spirit vs. ReignThe opening NWSL regular season match for the Washington Spirit (0-1-0) and the Seattle Reign FC (1-0-0) went well for Seattle as they topped the Spirit 2-1 in Seattle this past Saturday in front of 3,561 fans.
While the Spirit dominated the possession of the ball for the entire match, they could not hold off the Reign from scoring twice in the first half. The first goal was on a free kick by Seattle Reign forward Megan Rapinoe. When Allie Long was fouled in the final third of the third of the field, Rapinoe took the kick. She bent the ball over a wall of Spirit players and into the high left corner of the net. The ball passed just out of reach of the Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe who launched herself with no hope of a gentle landing at the incoming ball. Reign 1, Spirit 0.
Rapinoe’s free kick showed why she is a leading striker, globally, in the world of women’s professional soccer. Throughout the first half, Rapinoe made space for herself often leaving her unmarked by the Spirit defense. The Reign took full advantage of that oversight and fed Rapinoe the ball often. In the 35th minute Rumi Utsugi laid a ball off to Rapinoe who fed it to English international forward Jody Taylor. Taylor’s light foot on the shot to goal had enough pace to not be sufficiently deflected by Bledsoe’s dive to stop it. The Reign scored again, marking two goals on the sheet and Spirit holding tight at 0.

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DC United play Houston Dynamo to a draw

Houston Dynamo vs. DC UnitedIn front of a standing-room only crowd, the first-ever Major League Soccer regular season game for the DC United (0-1-2) at the Maryland Soccerplex on Maureen Hendricks Field in Boyds, DC United came to a 2-2 draw against the Houston Dynamo (1-1-1).
Spectators packed the stadium in spite of the cold, windy weather spitting snow throughout the match. Good weather or bad, DC United fans are a hardy group willing to travel to northern Montgomery County to see their team play.
Commentators from other news sources predicted DC United would likely have the lowest attendance ever for a MLS game. Instead, DC United played an exciting match against Houston Dynamo in front of a crowd of 5,158.
Playing in a series of snow squalls that rolled through the match, Houston was the first to score a goal, as Alberth Elis scored the first goal of the match in the 30th minute, unassisted. Elis provided the assist for the second goal of the match when Mauro Manotas scored for the Dynamo, placing them 2-0 over DC United. The chances of winning the match did not look good for DC United going into the locker room at halftime.

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Preseason match shines on a rookie

UNC’s Nicole Crutchfield rushes the ball while Washington Spirit’s Estefania Banini interferes with her progress. The two teams closed the match with a 1-1 draw. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFEUNC’s Nicole Crutchfield rushes the ball while Washington Spirit’s Estefania Banini moves to block. The two teams ended the match with a 1-1 draw. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  LEESBURG, VA — As the match started between the Washington Spirit and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels women’s soccer team at the Evergreen Soccer Complex, players who were not starters were bundled up in official Washington Spirit winter-ready warmup jackets. The starters were rubbing their hands together, donning gloves, their breath creating a fog in the air, jumping about to stay warm and loose.
By the end of two 45-minute periods of play, both teams were sweat-soaked, steaming in the cold air, and looking at a final score of 1-1. After the obligatory post-match handshakes, the players made a straight line for the locker rooms, skipping the warm down that usually follows. It was cold.
Preseason games are where rookies get their chance to earn a spot on the team while seasoned veterans need to prove they can retain their spot on the team. The Spirit opened their preseason playing against the Tar Heels, a team known for delivering national championships and professional players. They did not disappoint when playing the Spirit on this past Saturday.

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