Tori Huster is the lone remaining player to have been with the Spirit every year of the team’s existence.
This year’s Washington Spirit seems defined more by who isn’t here than who is. If you tried to name the team’s defining players, it would probably go something like: Ali Krieger, Tori Huster, Diana Matheson, Crystal Dunn, and maybe a nod to Megan Oyster, Estefania Banini, and Christine Nairn.
Well, except for Huster all those players are gone now. Krieger was pretty much given away to the Orlando Pride. Matheson and Nairn were traded to the Seattle Reign. Oyster was traded to the Boston Breakers. Dunn and Banini are across the pond, playing for Chelsea and Valencia, respectively.
The remaining players include two from the Canadian WNT (Stephanie Labbé and Shelina Zadorsky) and two internationals (Line Sigvardsen Jensen of Denmark and Francisca Ordega of Nigeria), but no allocated players from the US WNT.
On the other hand, Washington has never been a team of stars, relying more on teamwork and a blue-collar attitude. Last year they had some of the prettiest team goals you could ask for, pinging the ball all over the field until someone found an opening and sent it in. They’ll need to do more of the same this year. As Huster says, “We’ve got a blue-collar mentality. No one’s going to outwork us.”
Lori Lindsey holds off Marta, from a gameday program cover for the last team to have a women’s professional soccer playoff match at the ‘Plex, the 2009 Washington Freedom.
Based on what I’ve read on Twitter and elsewhere, Spirit fans have a definite glass-half-empty feeling about losing the first-place spot the last weekend of the season after having held it for several weeks previously. But look on the bright side: this is the best regular-season finish in the history of Washington women’s professional soccer.
Yes, Abby Wambach never managed it in four years here. Heck, Wambach and Mia Hamm combined never managed it. But this bunch of no-names – certainly with no one of the marquee value of the aforementioned – did the job.
However, though this Friday’s home playoff match is a first for the Spirit, it’s not a first for Washington (or the Soccerplex). Back in 2009, the Freedom finished third in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) on the strength of a 4-1-1 finish to the season, which included a barnburner, 4-4 match against Sky Blue at Yurcak Field that the Freedom tied up in the final minutes off a goal from Cat Whitehill. (I got held up at halftime behind the stands chatting with someone at that match and got back late only to find that I’d missed not one but two goals.) It’s a team with a few players familiar to Spirit fans: Joanna Lohman, Lori Lindsey, and Ali Krieger were all on the roster.
Ashley Herndon tallied a goal and an assist for James Madison but was only able to lead them to a split of their two matches.
Once again I was able to head down to Thompson Field in Blacksburg, VA, to take in a four-team weekend tournament. This time Virginia Tech was hosting James Madison University, Indiana University, and Boston University.
Megan Rapinoe and Laura Harvey talk with the press after the match.
For the second year in a row
, the Seattle Reign’s late-season visit to the Soccerplex is overshadowed by happenings outside the match. You can find a zillion recaps and reactions to the sideshow online, both from the sources that cover the NWSL on a regular basis and the ones who only cover the league when something embarrassing or controversial happens.
You can read Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s explanation of why he rescheduled the anthem to prevent Megan Rapinoe from kneeling during the national anthem over at Equalizer Soccer. And I’ve uploaded Rapinoe’s fifteen-minute post-game interview – of which less than a minute is about the game – to Youtube. Caitlin Buckley also has a transcription of key parts of it.
And Steven Goff of the Washington Post has a day-after followup.
I’m still formulating my own opinion on the situation and don’t want to focus on that at this point, anyhow, but I will note on a night that Lynch’s team ensured a home playoff game and the most successful regular season of any Washington team ever, thanks in considerable part to him there’s hardly any attention being paid to that. But I’ll try to remedy that from here on out.
It’s not hard to tell when the Spirit are going to win: they’ll be pinging the ball around from player to player, players always on the move to make themselves an open passing target, everyone calmly keeping possession and looking for an opening. I knew from the start of last week’s game that they’d beat Orlando because they came out playing that way.
Tonight against the Western New York Flash it was like that for only about ten minutes late in the first half. Other than that and a few minutes in the second half, the team seemed to be on their heels the entire evening. For both halves I sat near the goal Washington was attacking, and for both halves my dominant recollection is peering into the distance as the Flash went after the far goal.
Imani Dorsey scored twice to lead the Spirit Reserves to victory.
WPSL East Conference Final: Washington Spirit Reserves 3, Boston Breakers Reserves 1
It was everything you’d expect the first-ever match between two NWSL reserve teams to be: hard-fought, high-quality, and suspenseful. But the 2015 W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves came out on top on the strength of two goals from Imani Dorsey and a strike from distance by Maddie Huster that Carli Lloyd would have been proud of. Boston’s Katie Lenz countered with a well-placed goal, but it wasn’t enough.
Washington, Boston reserve teams will face off for WPSL East Championship
Midge Purce picked up two assists but could have had a lot more.
Unlike last season in the W-League’s fiercely competitive Southeastern Conference, the Washington Spirit Reserves have seldom been challenged this year, with their toughest opponent being the Spirit Academy. That changed tonight when they faced the regional hosts the Penn Fusion. They came away with a 3-1 victory, but it was hard-fought.
Spirit Reserves Capture Colonial Crown with 6-0 Win
The 6-0 final scoreline was not a shock, particularly considering that the Washington Spirit Reserves had plenty of subs, while the Richmond Kickers showed up with 11 players and no goalkeeper. (Or, as @jstats tweeted at me, “if they have 11 they have a goalie…that person just doesn’t know it yet”.) And that was with the start being delayed 25 minutes to allow the visitors time to show up.
That being said, it seemed anything but inevitable for the first 45 minutes. Despite having Ashley Herndon (James Madison), Imani Dorsey (Duke), Meggie Dougherty Howard (Florida), and Yanara Aedo (Colo-Colo) on the pitch, the first half seemed more like a game of keep-away: the Reserves had much the better of possession but had nothing to show for it. The best chance of the first 40 minutes was a 6th-minute shot by Wake Forest’s Maddie Huster from about 30 yards out that went off the top of the crossbar.
Richmond suffered further misfortune as their #2 went down in the 38th minute after tangling legs with a Spirit player. She was diagnosed with a bad ankle sprain and missed the rest of the match, so the Strikers were down to ten players.
Quite possibly as a result, the Reserves got two decent chances late in the half. In the 41st minute, Dorsey received a nice cross just inside the top of the 18 but sent it right to the goalkeeper. In the next minute, Dougherty Howard took a shot from about 20 out but sent it high.
Assistant coach JP Sousa was not happy at halftime. “We started off very flat. That was a boring first 45 minutes, very uninspiring. We were just a little bit lazy around the ball, let things happen. We were happy to keep it, but we didn’t do anything positive with it in their half of the field.”
Spirit forward Francisca Ordega is determined to fill the gap left by Crystal Dunn.
After a strong 4-0-1 start, it’s been a question of which Washington Spirit team will show up: the one that shut down the Orlando Pride, or the one that gave up two goals to a struggling Sky Blue team? After two shaky performances, tonight it was the former, as Washington came out with energy and enthusiasm, scored an early goal, and put away the rival Chicago Red Stars, 2-0.
The win officially puts the Spirit in third place in the standings, but in terms of points earned per game played, they’re tops in the league.
The first goal came in the 20th minute, Christine Nairn feeding the ball to an onrushing Estefania Banini. Banini did a give-and-go with Francisca Ordega that got her to the left corner of the six-yard box, and she sent the ball just inside the right post from there. Meanwhile, despite being a little sloppy at times and turning the ball over, Washington was passing the ball around well.
Annaugh Madsen defends against up-and-coming Charge forward Bridgette Andrzejewski. (Photo by Ken L. Harriford.)
Both sides were shorthanded in this late-season, mid-week WPSL match. The Spirit Academy were missing eight players, including all their U-20 national teamers. One of their assistant coaches suited up and played at least a third of the game. The ASA Charge started the match with ten players (the eleventh got stuck in traffic and was taking her earrings off on the sideline), and that was with their operations manager’s teenage daughter playing forward.