So far in 2019, the Spirit are much improved

Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe was hands-down the Player of the Match Saturday evening.

Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe was hands-down the Player of the Match Saturday evening.

Washington Spirit fans have suffered a good bit the last two seasons. In 2017 and 2018, their team went 7-32-9, the worst two-season record in US women’s professional soccer history (yes, even worse than the 2010-11 Atlanta Beat and the 2015-16 Boston Breakers). Obviously, changes were necessary, and – as discussed in my previous post – they were made. The question, of course, is how much difference did the changes make.

So far, the team looks pretty good. I don’t think anyone expects the Spirit to win the championship or even to make the playoffs, but they’ve battled in every game they’ve had so far, with crisp possession passing more reminiscent of the 2016 near championship season than their more recent play. The young back line has held up so far, helped in the crunch with some stunning saves by Aubrey Bledsoe, including two save-of-the-week candidates from just last night.
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2018 NWSL Playoff Final – Run The Numbers – North Carolina vs Portland

(Finally getting this off the draft column. Will be moving most/all of these to Twitter for the 2019 season.)

North Carolina captured their first NWSL title to cap off the greatest season in American domestic club soccer history, crushing the Portland Thorns on their home turf in an anti-climatic showdown.

North Carolina Courage vs Portland Thorns stats xG - North Carolina (3.90), Portland (0.54)

North Carolina Courage vs Portland Thorns stats
xG – North Carolina (3.90), Portland (0.54)

North Carolina shots

North Carolina shots

North Carolina shots

North Carolina shots

Portland shots

Portland shots

Portland shots

Portland shots

Key Passes - Courage in blue, Thorns in red

Key Passes – Courage in blue, Thorns in red

Woman of The Match – Jessica McDonald (NC)

2 goals (5 chances)
1.74 xG
2 chances created
2 key passes
4 dribbles
8 shots
14 attacking challenges won (out of 28)
8 aerial challenges won (out of 12)
3 crosses
3 fouls won

This was the stuff of legend from McDonald, as one of the best forwards in NWSL history showcased her skill on the biggest stage of American club soccer. It was an overwhelming display for McDonald, scoring twice and dominating in the air on the day while also adding some great passes to spur the Courage on to the title.

McDonald shots

McDonald shots

McDonald aerial challenges won

McDonald aerial challenges won

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WoSo Independent Podcast #67 – 2019 NWSL Previews – Utah Royals (+Early Orlando Pride Thoughts)

In this episode of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) give a handful of hearty I-Told-You-So’s after Orlando’s calamitous first two games.

Then, they finish out their in-depth previews of the NWSL by looking at the Utah Royals (11:36), who will be looking to rise into the playoff places in their second season. Utah has a potentially potent attack but major questions on defense.

WoSo Independent Podcast #66 – 2019 NWSL Previews – Portland Thorns (+NWSL Standings Predictions)

On this episode of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) preview the Portland Thorns ahead of the 2019 NWSL season.

Can the Thorns somehow overcome the Courage after losing decisively throughout last season, especially in the final? Will there be enough in depth to cover losses during the WWC? And could the unthinkable happen, with Portland missing the playoffs this year if things go badly?

At 41:18, Chris and Jon then give their predictions on how the final table will shake out.

A new era for the Washington Spirit

Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh grab a snack from the new player lounge

Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh grab a snack from the new player lounge.

When we last encountered the Washington Spirit, they had completed a dismal season in next-to-last place after a 1-1 draw with the last place team, Sky Blue FC.

Since then, they have hired a new head coach and several assistant coaches, acquired a new majority owner and new CEO, and churned over the roster yet again. Oh, and they’ve added a team mascot.
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WoSo Independent Podcast #64 – 2019 NWSL Previews – Reign FC

In this episode of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz)preview the rebranded Reign FC’s 2019 season.

Has the now Tacoma-based club done enough to close the gap with the best in the league? Will their depth give them a big advantage with so many absences around the league? And what might be their Achilles’ heel?

WoSo Independent Podcast #62 – 2019 NWSL Previews – Washington Spirit

In this episode of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) preview the Washington Spirit’s 2019 NWSL season.

How will an offseason of tumult affect the club in the short and long-term? Was enough done to address issues on the backline and frontline? And what should the Spirit be looking at realistically in terms of results in 2019?

WoSo Independent Podcast #61 – 2019 NWSL Previews – Houston Dash

In episode #61 of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) preview the Houston Dash ahead of the 2019 NWSL season.

What of the team’s new head coach, and what are the questions he has to answer to get this team to the playoffs? Is the Sophie Schmidt signing a make-or-break proposition for the Dash? And could the numerous attacking looks the club could throw out at opponents be a key to success?