June isn’t quite over yet, but I’m only going to make it to one more match, so here’s what’s happened so far this month.
All photographs courtesy of Larry J. Clark.
Virginia Beach City FC 4, Braddock Road Stars Elite 2
Braddock Road’s Alex Myers attempts a shot against Virginia Beach.
On Wednesday, June 7, at Robinson High School in Fairfax, VA, a well-oiled Virginia Beach attack overpowered a normally solid Braddock Road defense and even though the Stars Elite scored twice – a good performance by them – it wasn’t enough. Continue reading →
Australian Meaghan McElligott scored three consecutive goals in two matches for the Washington Spirit Reserves.
One week in (roughly), and we have three matches from the local teams in the books, two for each. (The math works out because they played each other.) The Washington Spirit Reserves are, unsurprisingly, 2-0-0, while the Braddock Road Stars Elite, also unsurprisingly, are 1-1-0. Continue reading →
Washington Spirit Reserves players at a preseason practice.
The regional elite women’s amateur scene has altered once again with the folding of the ASA Chesapeake Charge. For most of seven seasons, they were the local WPSL team to be reckoned with, but as time went by they found it harder and harder to recruit enough players to be competitive. When for some games last year they were starting the 13-year-old daughter of their operations manager, the writing was on the wall. So from two years ago when there were four local teams in two leagues, we’re down to two local teams in one league, the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Let’s look at those teams now. Continue reading →
Franny Ordega had a career match to lead the Spirit to their first win of 2017.
Driving to the Soccerplex on Saturday, I was already composing this article in expectation of another lackluster performance. “Should the Spirit change their name? Spirit is the one thing that they’ve seemed to lack this season.” I was also going to note that Francisca Ordega seemed too fragile for this league, too often being bumped off the ball.
Shows what I know.
An almost unrecognizable team showed up Saturday evening, especially in the first half: completing passes, making runs off the ball, and showing an intensity that had been lacking in their previous three matches. And far from being a fragile flower, Ordega was muscling defenders off the ball in what some were calling the best NWSL performance of 2017 as she played a role in all four Washington goals: scoring two, assisting on one, and contributing to an own goal with a shot across the goalmouth. Continue reading →
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.” Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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.
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →