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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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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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Seattle Reign supreme over Washington Spirit in final game of the season, 3-2

Seattle Reign vs. Washington Spirit 9 30 17Spirit midfielder Tori Huster slows Beverly Yanez’s movement towards the ball as Mallory Pugh closes in from behind for the steal. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  BOYDS — Sitting at the bottom of the National Women’s Soccer League’s standings, the only improvement the Washington Spirit could have gained Saturday by winning their match against the Seattle Reign FC would have been ninth place. Unfortunately, even that small victory was not to be; The Spirit lost to The Reign at Maureen Hendricks Field, 3-2.

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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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