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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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Double defeats for D.C. professional soccer

xCorner Kick DC United vs. Philly Union 1b 5 13 17Philadelphia Union's Ilsinho (25) goes to the ground after contact with D.C. United's Luciano Acosta. For his part in the contact, Acosta was issued a red card and ejected from the game. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFEWhen D.C. United’s (3-5-2) game fails, they fail big. In a 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union (2-4-4), D.C. United’s bird crashed and burned. D.C. United has not lost to the Philadelphia Union at RFK since 2013.
In the first period the Union seemed to have trouble getting the ball past D.C. United’s midfield, unless they lobbed the ball from one back third to the other. Dribbling down the sides or up the middle consistently resulted in turning the ball over to the United. Unfortunately, it also seemed to work the opposite way. The midfields of both teams were well matched.
The first referee of the game was very generous with yellow cards, calling three of them in the first 19 minutes of the match. All three were calls for unsporting behavior, two against Philadelphia’s Fabinho and Bedoya, and one for D.C. United’s Neagle. In addition to the cards, the crowd protested loudly against fouls called that awarded free kicks to the Union. The RFK regulars have always channeled their emotions vocally, but this was above the usual level of noisy disagreement.

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Spirit score three points first time this season in win over Sky Blue

The Washington Spirit picked up three points for the first time this season with a win over Sky Blue FC, 4-3. It was an exhaustive Ping-Pong game of offensive attacks by both teams. By the end of the match, there were a lot of tired legs on the pitch. This was as close to an Iron Man challenge as soccer can get. Sky Blue held the ball the majority of the game and they had 16 shots compared to the Spirit’s 87 yet the Spirit knocked off Sky Blue.

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In loss to Houston, Spirit fails to score for third game in a row

201700429 Spirit vs Dash 1005Crystal Thomas attempts a slide tackle and goal shot in one move. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE 

For the third game in a row, the Spirit (0-2-1) has failed to put a win on the boards. They now stand in ninth place in a 10-team league with an overall record of. The Houston Dash (2-1-0), a team that Spirit consistently put away in past years, moved into fourth place in league standings with the win. The Houston Dash is moving up and the Spirit are closing on the bottom. While eight of the 10 teams have won at least one game, the Spirit and the Pride are winless.

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Spirit earns a draw against Orlando and former teammates

Washington Spirit Logo

Facing the Orlando Pride at Orlando City Stadium Saturday, the team with the most ex-Washington Spirit starters, the Spirit drew an equalizer, with the final score 1-1. Both teams walked away with one point added to their league standings.

The week leading up the game was loaded with speculation about how interaction of the two teams would play out on the field. It was not about who was going to win, it was about the feelings and emotions of playing the team that now has Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, both ex-Spirit players who were fan favorites.

None of that showed on the field when the match started.  It was a match of professional athletes doing their best to win the game for their team.

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Spirit loses their home opener to North Carolina Courage, 1-0

xCorner Kick-Shelina Zadorsky  Stephanie LabbeShelina Zadorsky (4) blocks Jessica McDonald to protect goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.   PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

 

The Washington Spirit (0-1-0) did not have a good weekend. After winning all their pre-season games against college powerhouses, they dropped their home opener Saturday, 1-0, to the team formerly known as Western New York Flash now the North Carolina Courage (1-0-0), the same team to whom they lost last year’s league championship last fall.
Based on the time of ball possession and the high number of shots on goal, 21 by the Courage, and a lonely 4 by the Washington Spirit, our local team should be thrilled they lost by only one point.
How did the Spirit not lose by more? The answer is Stephanie Labbé , the Spirit’s keeper. She was the star on the field against the Courage.

 

 

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