Tag Archives: Mallory Pugh

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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Mixed results from first Spirit homestand

The Washington Spirit split their first homestand of the season, downing the Orlando Pride, 2-0, on March 31 (their first victory at the Maryland Soccerplex since June 24 last year and breaking a six-game winless streak), then falling to the North Carolina Courage, 4-2, on April 14. Given that the two teams were picked by many to be at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the season, it was a good test of how the team was doing.
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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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