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English forward Wayne Rooney joins DC United. COURTESY PHOTO  Exponential excitement came with the first heat wave of the summer as DC United welcomes English forward Wayne Rooney to the team. Rooney, the superstar who played for Manchester United for 14 years and most recently, a return to his original club, Everton, now joins DC United, the third team of his professional career since 2002. He will be sporting number 9 on his jersey and he will attract a crowd.

Like David Beckham before him, when he joined the LA Galaxy years ago, Rooney brings the hope of a higher level of play to the young men of the DC United team. When he was asked about why he came to the D.C. area to play with the team, he cleared up very quickly an additional unspoken question: Is he here to retire?

Rooney responded, “I’m not here to see out my last few years. I’m here to compete, I’m here to win.”

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BOYDS — This past weekend at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the Washington Spirit pulled a 1-1 draw against the New Jersey Sky Blue FC team. The match was particularly difficult for the Spirit as they had lost 6 players to international friendlies during the FIFA international break from Aug. 23 through Sept. 3. cutting the number […]

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Washington Spirit announced the termination of head coach Jim Gabarra, seen here during a 2017 game against the Houston Dash. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  Last Saturday the Washington Spirit has solidified their position at second from the bottom in the nine-team National Womens Soccer League in a 4-0 loss to the Houston Dash. A Spirit roster loaded with national team starters and seasoned veterans who knew how to win matches, the team never came close to meeting expectations of the fans at the Houston match, or for that matter the season.

The team who fans believed had the talent to make the playoffs this season, failed. Over the last 11 matches, the Spirit have scored only one goal. Mallory Pugh, a starting forward on the Spirit roster has scored six goals playing U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team matches in 2018.

Rose Lavelle, another Spirit starting forward from the Spirit scored a goal this past week for the USWNT in a friendly against Brazil. Yet for the Spirit she has zero goals and Pugh carries a lonely two total goals for the Spirit. Granted, Lavelle has been out with an injury for nearly the whole of the season and Pugh had an injury that kept her off the pitch for at least eight matches. That still does not explain their inability to score as well while playing for the Spirit.

Three days after the dismal loss to the Dash, Washington Spirit management started making changes. The first salvo from Spirit ownership announced the immediate termination of head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. Replacing Gabarra as interim head coach will be Tom Torres. The position of general manager will be covered by team President Chris Hummer.

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English forward Wayne Rooney joins DC United. COURTESY PHOTO  Exponential excitement came with the first heat wave of the summer as DC United welcomes English forward Wayne Rooney to the team. Rooney, the superstar who played for Manchester United for 14 years and most recently, a return to his original club, Everton, now joins DC United, the third team of his professional career since 2002. He will be sporting number 9 on his jersey and he will attract a crowd.

Like David Beckham before him, when he joined the LA Galaxy years ago, Rooney brings the hope of a higher level of play to the young men of the DC United team. When he was asked about why he came to the D.C. area to play with the team, he cleared up very quickly an additional unspoken question: Is he here to retire?

Rooney responded, “I’m not here to see out my last few years. I’m here to compete, I’m here to win.”

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Spirit defender Whitney Church and Pride forward Alex Morgan follow up on splitting a header. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  BOYDS — For the Washington Spirit (2-8-4), winless in the last 5 matches, it was another swing and a miss, this time against the Orlando Pride (6-3-4), who defeated the Spirit 1-0.

Early in the match, the 11th minute, the Pride shocked the Spirit, everyone in the stadium, and those watching on TV, with a half-pitch-long shot that sailed untouched into the back of the net. Pride defender Alanna Kennedy was the one with the heavy boot to score the goal. Kennedy took advantage of the entire Spirit defense crowding the midfield line with keeper Bledsoe high out of her box. Bledsoe made a superhuman attempt to stop the shot but it was an inch or so too high for her. For the Pride, the goal marked why soccer is called the beautiful game.

That surprise long-distance goal would be the only goal of the match, enough to bring the Pride three additional points in the standings and rob the Spirit of any additional points. The Pride now stand at second place in the National Women’s Soccer League point rankings. They are climbing the ladder with their sixth straight win on the road.

The Pride came to the pitch with a fully-loaded starting lineup and the bench strength to back it up, but not the Spirit.

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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 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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BOYDS — 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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The 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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The 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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During 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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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 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’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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The 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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In 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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UNC’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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DC United’S Chris Korb collides with Red Bulls forward Gonzalo Verón while stopping the attack by Verón. Both players went to the ground, no foul called. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE

Despite a solid display of athleticism and more than a bit of aggression from both teams, DC United (9-20-5) was unable to leave Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium with one more win. In the last Major League Soccer match Sunday afternoon on the pitch at RFK in front of 41,418 spectators, the New York Red Bulls (14-12-8) defeated DC United 2-1.

Led by first-time captain Marcelo Sarvas, DC United opened the match with a parry-and-thrust attack that kept the Red Bulls on their side of the field more often than not. Each time the Red Bulls moved the ball onto the DC United’s side, DC responded by turning the ball back and moving the match back to the other end of the pitch.

The fires of frustration crept into the match ignited by a tangled dust-up between United’s forward Paul Arriola and Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence. Chasing the ball from opposite ends resulted in a loud, violent collision that brought both players to the ground, skidding across the end line and into advertising barriers surrounding the field. Arriola lay crumpled against the wall, not moving much.

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Spirit 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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DC United’s Paul Arriola slumps to the field as game time runs out, with the Orlando City Soccer Club declared the victors, 2-1. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  WASHINGTON — In front of a crowd of 18,028 spectators at RFK Stadium, DC United fell to the Orlando City Soccer Club, 2-1.

Orlando City owned the majority of the first half, keeping DC United’s defense stretched out. It was the first half that brought Orlando their only two goals of the match. DC United’s frustration with the first half of the match showed up when Luciano Acosta at the 24th minute and Paul Arriola at the 33rd minute were flagged with yellow cards for unsporting behavior.

The second half of the match, DC United was back as the dominating home team that fans expected. They played faster, more aggressively, and with an obvious sense of urgency. DC United head coach Ben Olsen commented that the second half was better for the team. “The second half was pretty gutsy from us, and I thought we should have earned a little bit more out of that game.”

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Pitted against the league leaders in the National Women’s Soccer League on their home pitch, the Washington Spirit (4-10-4) fell 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage (13-5-0) this past Saturday. The North Carolina Courage was the team to beat as they’re at the top of the league with 39 points. The next closest team is the Portland Thorns with 34 points. Unless the Courage fall apart in the next few weeks, they will be the league champions of the NWSL.

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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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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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Orlando’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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An 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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Thorns’ 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 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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DC 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 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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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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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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Philadelphia 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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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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Crystal 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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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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Shelina 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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D.C. United’s Jose Ortiz uses New York City Football Club’s Andrea Pirlo to gain height in a header battle. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

D.C. United continued their home field-winning ways with the final score 2-1 over the New York City Football Club this past Saturday.

In the Major League Soccer standings, D.C. United picked up another three points, which moved them onto a level with four other teams in the Eastern Conference, who also have seven points each. This is a long way from the single point they were carrying just a few weeks ago. Columbus Crew SC currently leads the conference with 10 points.

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DC United midfielder Julian Büscher battles for the ball with Philadelphia Union player. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

D.C. United scored their first two regular-season goals this past Saturday against the Philadelphia Union. The final score of the game was 2-1, with DC United coming out on top.

Missing their star forward, Patrick Mullins, D.C. United created more goals without him than they did all season. Keep in mind the match against the Philadelphia Union was only the fourth of the season. The win on Saturday moved D.C. United into ninth place out of 11 teams in the Eastern Conference. They have four points now.

The match started out with D.C. United being on top of their offensive game. Fans were looking to Jose Ortiz to fill the spot of Mullins, who is out with a hamstring injury. Ortiz did not fail to meet fan expectations. In the 18th minute of the first half, Ortiz made a shot that was deflected by the Union’s Richie Marquez and past the Union keeper Andre Blake.

Argentinian acquisition Luciano Acosta, a midfielder, was showing why he was a great choice for D.C. United by breaking up Union opportunities and carving out opportunities for the D.C. United attack. He put his mark on the match in the first half by scoring his first goal of the season. The goal was on a spot kick awarded after an arm violation in the box. Taking the kick, Acosta buried a rocket shot deep into the net on the left side.

At the end of the first half, the score was 2-0.

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Cheyna Williams had a standout game for the Spirit. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

LEESBURG, VA. — The Washington Spirit, playing their first-ever preseason game in Northern Virginia, outplayed the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team 5 to nil at the Evergreen Sportsplex.

Late spectators who managed to get tickets to the sellout event found themselves parking in a field instead of one of the already-filled paved lots. The official capacity of the location is 2,000 people. It was standing room only by the start of the match.

Missed connections and poor ball movement dominated the first 30 minutes of the match. The Spirit’s passes were off target, and the movement of the ball was not well coordinated. The team was playing a system using three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards.  It was the same system used at the end of last season. It needs improvement to fit with the team. Head coach Jim Gabarra said, “That was a system we went to at the end. It’s been pretty good. We need to work on it.” 

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Penn State’s Frannie Crouse (9) gets her attack interrupted by key Spirit defenders Shelina Zadorsky and Whitney Church. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

The Washington Spirit took on Penn State’s women’s soccer team in a preseason exhibition game on Saturday. On an artificial turf field surrounded by snow piles upwards of 3 feet, the Spirit played their first of four preseason matches with a three to nil win over Penn State.  

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The newest players being considered for full-time positions on the Washington Spirit’s professional soccer team are young. They are not the names you would know from watching the USA Women’s National Soccer team.

Instead, they are stars coming off magnificent amateur careers in college and the national age bracket teams. After the end of the 2016 season for the National Women’s Soccer League, the Spirit made several trades of fan favorite players. The trades irked a section of their fan base that was very vocal on social media about their unhappiness with the trades.

Yes, players with recognized names like Krieger, Dunn, and Matheson would not be back playing for the Spirit in 2017.

What could be the motive for such a dramatic change?

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U.S. Women’s midfielder Allie Long (20) gets in front of France’s Eugenie Le Sommer to break her attack in the 2017 She Believes Cup at RFK Stadium. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE

After England’s national women’s team defeated the US Women’s National team last weekend, the first time ever that England has defeated the US team on their home field, one would not have thought that France would do the same on Tuesday, March 7.

The Women’s National Team from France, coached by Olivier Echouafni, doused the US Women’s team 3-0. By the 11th minute, France was up 2 to nil. The steady rain on the field seemed to wash away the indomitable strength of the US Women’s backline. France owned the pitch. 

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Washington Spirit’s Crystal Dunn (19), seen here in an earlier game against the Western New York Flash, scored both goals for the team, but the Flash would win in OT on a penalty kick. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

The Washington Spirit finished their season last week runner-up for the National Women’s Soccer League championship, falling to the Western New York Flash in Houston in overtime penalty kicks Oct. 9.

Spirit Head Coach and General Manager Jim Gabarra said he thought the better team lost the game that ended in a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation and 3-2 in favor of the flash after PKs.

“The better side does not always win in these matches, especially in something as late as four minutes of added time,” he said. “To go to penalty kicks , it’s an awful way to decide a match.”

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Washington Spirit forward Francisca Ordega scored the game-winning goal in overtime Friday.  PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

BOYDS – Home field advantage worked again for the Washington Spirit in their 2 to 1 overtime victory against the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League semifinals Friday.

The win paved the road to Houston for the Spirit, where they will play the Western New York Flash for the national championship Oct. 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium.

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Spirit forward Cheyna Williams (left) and forward Crystal Dunn celebrate Dunn’s goal with a little bit of dancing on the field as Caprice Dydesco and Estelle Johnson watch. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  BOYDS – The Washington Spirit (12-3-3, 39 points) netted a home game playoff spot in the National Women’s Soccer League semifinals with a 2-1 win over the Seattle Reign (6-6-6, 24 points) Wednesday night.

Spirit forward Crystal Dunn notched her first score of the season off an assist from midfielder Christine Nairn during stoppage time play in the first half.

Last season, Dunn scored nearly every game and she won the Golden Boot with the most goals in the league. Washington Head Coach and General Manager Jim Gabarra predicted early in the season Dunn would score when the team needed it.

Seattle Reign’s offense kept the Spirit defense active the whole match.

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Even with two people marking Crystal Dunn, she gets off her shot on goal.    PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE

 

BOYDS – The Washington Spirit (11-3-3 36 points.) secured a spot in the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs Saturday, tying the Western New York Flash (8-5-4  28 point) with one goal each.

If the Boyds-based team remains the league leader in points, the team will earn at least one home match at Maureen Hendricks Field. Should they make it to the finals, the game will be played in Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium. 

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Tori Huster (left) fights for the ball as part of the Washington Spirit. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

In Rio de Janeiro, the United States Women’s National Soccer team made it through to the quarter finals at the Olympics by a slim margin.

Favored to run through the preliminary matches in Group C, with nothing but wins and potentially clean sheets for every game, Columbia nearly ended that for the U.S. in a 2-2 draw Tuesday.

Goalie Hope Solo made rare mistakes on two free kicks, giving Columbia early Christmas presents.

However, forwards Crystal Dun and Mallory Pugh each scored a goal for the USWNT (2-0-1 overall, 7 points), which won the group and eliminated Colombia from the tournament.

Locally, the Montgomery County Sentinel had the opportunity to spend 15 minutes chatting with midfielder Victoria (Tori) Huster.

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In an earlier game in June, three of the Spirit’s core backline, Ali Krieger, Megan Oyster, and Shelina Zadorsky.  FILE PHOTO  

BOYDS – The Washington Spirit dominated Sky Blue FC 3-1 at home Sunday, earning three more points to stay tied with the Portland Thorns for first place in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Washington improved 6-1-1 at home this season at Maureen Hendricks Field and enter the Olympic break at 9-3-2 overall this season with 29 points.

Sky Blue FC of New Jersey dropped to fifth place at 6-5-4 and 22 points.

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The Washington Spirit battle in Boyds. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

More than half way through the regular season, the Washington Spirit continue to battle the spurious invisible Jersey specter that will not allow them to win a match against Sky Blue FC when played on the home turf of Sky Blue FC.   The Spirit lost an opportunity to pick up three points and be in sole possession of first place by losing to host Sky Blue FC 1-0 this past Saturday in New Jersey.

Instead, Sky Blue (6-4-4 overall, 22 points) picked up three points and moved into a tie with the Chicago Red Stars for fourth place, making them serious contenders for a playoff position.

Meanwhile, the on-again, off-again Spirit (8-3-2) share first place with the Portland Thorns (7-2-5) at 26 points, with the Western New York Flash (8-5-1) right behind with 25 points.

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Estefania Banini pushes the ball upfield for the Spirit.   COURTESY PHOTO

As unpredictable as ever, the Washington Spirit won an away game while playing FC Kansas City on their home field Saturday, downing host FC Kansas City 3-2 in what should have been a runaway match for the Spirit.

However, the Washington Spirit (8-2-2) still exited the game tied with the Portland Thorns (7-2-5) for first place in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Instead, they nearly gave away the game and their 2-0 lead late more than two-thirds of the way through the match. 

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Spirit forward Crystal Dunn is among the players named for this year’s Olympic Soccer Team. FILE PHOTO United States Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis named the 18 players for the Olympic Soccer Team Tuesday, including two local Washington Spirit players: defender Ali Krieger and forward Crystal Dunn.

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Alyssa Kliener steps in to win the ball away from FC Kansas City player (and Laurel, Md. native) Tiffany McCarty. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

BOYDS – Restarting their unbeaten home streak, the Washington Spirit put away FC Kansas City 2-0 Saturday in home game that developed slowly with the national team members out training for the Olympics.

Neither team dominated the game. It took until two key substitutions by the Spirit (6-2-2 overall) to prevent a draw.

“I think there was a good energy. We were a lot more organized and we played well as a group. The second half with the insertion of Franny and Cheyna really added some speed and dynamic up front. I think we started moving the ball a little quicker,” said Washington General Manager and Head Coach Jim Gabarra, referring to forwards Francisca Ordega and Cheyna Williams.

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Spirit midfielder Tori Huster and Sky Blue’s Tasha Kai battle for ownership of the header. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  

Two pre-Olympic friendly games will determine the 18 players plus alternates who make the United States Women’s National Team for the summer games in Rio de Janeiro.

USWNT head coach Jill Ellis called up 24 players who will be considered for the team to play South Africa July 9 in Chicago and Costa Rica July 22 in Kansas City.