Category Archives: National Women’s Soccer League

Washington Spirit 2018: Youth Movement

Top draft picks Rebecca Quinn (left) and Andi Sullivan get their first professional minutes in Richmond alongside veteran Estelle Johnson (photo courtesy of the Washington Spirit).

Top draft picks Rebecca Quinn (left) and Andi Sullivan get their first professional minutes in Richmond alongside veteran Estelle Johnson (photo courtesy of the Washington Spirit).

A core of very young and very promising players will determine the Spirit’s 2018 success and, one hopes, success for years to come

Shortly after the draft it occurred to me that just about every marquee young player to come down the pike since the NWSL was founded has ended up with the Spirit: Crystal Dunn, Mallory Pugh, Andi Sullivan. The only exception was Rose Lavelle, and then the Spirit got her, too, trading to be able to pick her in the dispersal draft when the Breakers folded. (I guess you could make a case for Morgan Brian being another exception, but roll with me here.)

I asked head coach Jim Gabarra about the “quality youth movement,” though he took it more as a chance to talk about the cohesion of players who were already familiar with each other. “Yes, I think any time you can add pockets of players that are comfortable with each other, with the national team, or maybe with a college or club team, I think it expedites that process of getting to know each other and I think there’ll be more energy and more buy-in into how they want to play. I think with the group we have here they’re going to have a lot of say into how the culture is, what our goals are. To get Rose, I think everyone sees her as an immensely talented player, and we just want to get her healthy right now. Her fit with Andi and Mal and Taylor and Hatch and the players who have been with the national team for the last year or two is something that provides stability and when you have that integration, that’s beneficial to all the players, gives them a little bit of confidence, a little bit of security, a little bit of a known in an unknown, uncomfortable situation.”

But it’s clear that this year’s team has a core of players who are both outstanding and young. To put it in perspective, of the five youngest players called up for next month’s USWNT friendlies, three of them (Pugh, Sullivan, and Ashley Hatch) wear the blue-and-red. And the youngest one Tiena Davidson, isn’t even in the NWSL yet. (Sky Blue’s Savannah McCaskill is the remaining interloper, six months younger than Andi.) And if Lavelle were healthy, she’d have made it four out of six, less than two weeks older than Hatch. Taylor Smith was left off this time but has been called up before. She’d be the ninth youngest, months older than Jane Campbell and Lindsey Horan but just a week younger than Emily Sonnett.
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Spirit Finish Homestand on a High Note

Spirit forward Francisca Ordega is determined to fill the gap left by Crystal Dunn.

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.
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Late Goals in 2-0 Win over FC Kansas City Redeem Spirit Homestand

The Washington Spirit were 258 minutes into a 360-minute homestand. Given how rarely they lose at home, going into the series twelve standings points weren’t out of the question and any fewer than eight would be a serious disappointment.

This was also the first weekend without the Olympic-bound players, a period you would think the Spirit would be dominant given head coach Jim Gabarra’s claim that his team has the deepest bench in the league.

But here they were 78 minutes into a scoreless tie against a struggling FC Kansas City team likely ending up with a mere four points in three games with the toughest opponent yet to play.

Then came the 79th minute. Caprice Dydasco in only her second game of the season sent a long ball toward the right corner. Christine Nairn made a Matheson-esque run to get to the ball before it went out, then sent it to Dydasco near the top right corner of the box. She sent it into the box where Francisca Ordega tried a bicycle kick but went to the ground. The ball came to Joanna Lohman facing goal, but she tripped before she could do more than push the ball slightly toward goal. Kansas City’s Yael Averbuch tried to clear it but sent it right to Ordega, who quickly stepped to her right and sent it toward goal with her right foot, nutmegging a defender whose leg redirected it into the lower left corner, away from a lunging Nicole Barnhart.

It was a flukey goal, but it changed the complexion of the game, the homestand, and possibly the season.
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Washington Spirit Allocation – First Thoughts

I sat down last night and scored the USWNT allocation based on players I wanted here in Washington (and players I didn’t want), with each player getting one (no, thanks), two (meh), three (cool), or four (awesome!) stars. The result for the Spirit – Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, and Lori Lindsey – is worth eleven stars out of a possible twelve, and the more I think about having Ashlyn Harris the more I’m thinking twelve out of twelve. My only disappointment is losing Becky Sauerbrunn, who’ll be sticking closer to her St. Louis home by playing for FC Kansas City. As for the rest, I was hoping to get Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod back, but obviously we don’t need both her and Harris. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts on the allocated players:
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Answers and Questions about the Washington Spirit

Article updated 21 December 2012 (since the world didn’t end) with the latest information.

Professional soccer has returned to the nation’s capital for the third time, this time under a new name and organization, the Washington Spirit. Well, actually, the organization isn’t all that new as it’s the same one that’s been behind the DC United Women, the very successful W-League team that was named the league’s Rookie Club of the Year in 2011 and this year finished third in the entire league.

There are a lot of questions to be asked about the club, and, not surprisingly at this stage, more questions than answers.

Who’s running the show?
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