It was an emotional evening at the sold-out Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown on Saturday, as the Washington Spirit hosted the newest members of the National Women’s Soccer League, the expansion Orlando Pride.
The game took place one week after the tragic mass-shooting event at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando where 49 people were killed, in a terrorist attack which had left the national reeling.
The 5,750 fans attending the game, knew that Saturday’s game was going to be different as soon they saw the field at Maureen Hendricks Stadium, which was decorated with a ribbon and the words, “We Stand United With Orlando” at midfield.
The victims of last week’s shoot were honored with a Moment of Silence before the National Anthem. Players from both teams entered the game wearing purple t-shirt reading, “#Orlando United” and both teams came together for a photo prior to the match, which pitted the 4-4 Pride against a 4-1-2 Spirit team coming home from a month away from the SoccerPlex.
The match, which ended in a 2-0 victory for Spirit was the first ever meeting between the two teams. The Spirit got on the board first with a goal from Estefania Banini in the ninth minute of action.
Banini’s goal when defender Spirit Alyssa Kleiner chased a ball down to the end line, reaching it in time to send a cross into the box. The Argentinian forward took a controlled first touch and slipped a shot into the right corner of the goal past Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
The Pride had a chance soon after in the 11th minute when Spirit defender Shelina Zadorsky fouled Alex Morgan just outside of the box. Pride defender Steph Catley drilled the free kick, but it curled just wide of the left post.
In the 34th minute, the Spirit almost earned its second goal of the night when midfielder Christine Nairn took a shot from the top of the box. Harris made the initial save but could not control the rebound. With Harris off her line, Francisca Ordega took a shot on the open net, but Catley was able to clear the shot just in time earning the Spirit a corner kick.
The Spirit doubled its lead with an unassisted goal by Nigerian forward Francisca Ordega in the 40th minute. The goal was Ordega’s first of the season, in her first start of the 2016 NWSL season for the Spirit. The goal came a few minutes after Ordega was injured on a play in the Pride 18-foot box. The Spirit played a woman-down as Ordega was tended to on the sideline, she was back in the game after a few minutes. Shortly after reentering the game, Ordega won a tackle in the midfield, beat two Pride defenders, and placed a shot in the bottom right corner past Harris.
In stoppage time of the first half, the Pride’s Alex Morgan had a one-on-one opportunity against Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Morgan sent a shot toward the right side, but Spirit goalkeeper Labbé made a diving save to push the shot off the post and back into play. Morgan collected the deflection, but her second shot was off target.
Play all but stopped for one minute in the 49th minute as the sold-out crowd stood and applauded for the entire minute in honor of the 49 people killed in last week’s attack in Orlando.
The Spirit’s defenders led by Megan Oyster and Shelina Zadorsky did a good job keeping Orlando’s superstar Alex Morgan in check all game, as the USWNT star attempted to get on the end of a number of through balls from Pride teammates, but was harassed and harried by Spirit defenders and kept off the score sheet.
Spirit superstar Crystal Dunn continues to search for the back of the net in NWSL play this season and her frustration was evident on Saturday night as, Dunn worked her magic to get past Pride defenders on a number of occasions but either shot wide or opted to pass to teammate, only to have the pass kicked away by a defender. Dunn led the NWSL in goals last year but has been snake-bit this year when it comes to scoring.
Saturday’s game was the first in a four-game homestand for the Spirit, who will play its next home game next Saturday, June 25 against Sky Blue FC. Sky Blue is the Spirit’s regional match up, so they will meet four times this season. That game will be followed by a visit from FC Kansas City on July 2, and the Chicago Red Stars on July 9.
Top: The Spirit’s Estefania Banini (10) slips a shot past Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (1) to give the Spirit a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Next: The Washington Spirit, the Maryland SoccerPlex, and Germantown “Stand United with Orlando.”
Next: Both teams wore purple t-shirts with reading “#United Orlando” to honor the victims of the deadly mass-shooting which happened in Orlando on Saturday, June 11.
Next: Spirit forward Francisca Ordega (14) got her first goal of the season in the 34th minute to extend the lead to 2-0.
Video: The sold out crowd at the Maryland SoccerPlex stood and applauded during the 49th minute of play to honor the 49 victims of the mass shooting in Orlando last week.
Next: Spirit defender Shelina Zadorsky (6) did a good job keeping Orlando’s superstar Alex Morgan (13) in check all game.
Next: Spirit’s superstar Crystal Dunn (19) continues to struggle to find the back of the goal after leading the lead in goals last season. Here while being defended by the Pride’s Toni Pressley (3), she tries a crossing pass to fool Orlando keeper Ashlyn Harris (1) during Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Orlando.
Next: Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé (1) and defender Shelina Zadorsky (6) combine to stop the Pride’s Alex Morgan (13) from getting a good look at the goal in the first half.
Photos and video by Germantown Pulse.