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Spirit Fall to FCKC in Mallory Pugh’s Pro Debut

The Washington Spirit fell 1-0 to FC Kansas City in the first half of a home-and-home series last Saturday evening at the Maryland SoccerPlex’s, as 19-year-old soccer phenom Mallory Pugh made her pro debut in front of 3,714 fans.

Pugh, the youngest current player in the National Women’s Soccer League, entered the match as a substitute for fellow rookie Arielle Ship in the 54th minute and recorded one shot on target.

FC Kansas City’s Alexa Newfield netted the only goal of the match in the 39th minute, scoring on an assist from U.S. Women’s National Team forward Sydney Leroux.

Washington and Kansas City each recorded 11 shots, with the Spirit putting six on frame and the visitors shooting four times on target. Cheyna Williams had an active game up top for the Spirit, firing off four total shots, three of which were on goal. Newfield and Leroux paced Kansas City with four shots each and two on target.

The Spirit’s closest scoring chance came in the 22nd minute when a short-range Kristie Mewis shot struck the crossbar. Francisca Ordega followed up with a shot that was deflected by Kansas City.

Spirit goalkeeper and Canadian international Stephanie Labbé added to her league-leading save total with three more stops, making it an even 30 on the season. Fellow Canadian National Team player and 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medalist Shelina Zadorsky had one of her busiest games of the young season, leading all players from both teams with nine clearances. Alyssa Kleiner and Estelle Johnson each made seven clearances, while Johnson tied with Ordega for the Spirit team-high with three tackles each.

Veteran goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart saved all six of the on-target shots she faced, notching her NWSL record 35th career clean sheet in the process. Barnhart and the top-ranked Kansas City defense have still allowed only three goals on the season through their first six games. U.S. Women’s National Team and FCKC captain Becky Sauerbrunn anchored the defensive unit from her center back position, making three important clearances and winning five possessions for her side.