Washington Spirit Shuts Out Houston, Pugh Nets First Goal as Professional
The Washington Spirit earned a 2-0 win over the visiting Houston Dash in front of 3,096 fans on Saturday evening at the Maryland SoccerPlex. A third minute strike from forward Cheyna Wiliams opened the scoring for the Spirit, and 19-year-old US international Mallory Pugh netted her historic first professional goal in the 69th minute in just her second career start.
Williams found the net for the first time this season on one of the opening possessions of the game, receiving a perfectly-placed through ball from Havana Solaun and bursting into the box before sending a low shot past Dash goalkeeper Lydia Williams inside the far post. Solaun, who leads the Spirit with three goals scored on the season, notched her first assist of the season on the play.
Pugh added the second half insurance goal for Washington, receiving a well-timed pass from Kristie Mewis on the left side of the box and firing a shot through the legs of the keeper. Solaun, who threaded the ball into Mewis, was credited with the second assist on the play.
Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé piled up eight saves in the victory, as she and the Washington back line recorded their first clean sheet of the season. The Canadian international and 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medalist now leads the NWSL with 39 saves on the season.
In a strong two-way performance, rookie Arielle Ship led the Spirit with 10 tackles. Defender Alyssa Kleiner had a team-high eight clearances, while Shelina Zadorsky and Williams tied for the team lead with three interceptions each. Meggie Dougherty Howard led Washington’s field players with 39 total passes. Pugh’s four total shots and two on-target attempts were both team-highs for the Spirit.
“I thought our whole team defended really well,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “Offensively I thought our speed and our dynamic movement up front kind of overwhelmed them.”
Houston and Washington combined for 32 total shots in the high-paced game, with the Dash recording 18. Janine Beckie led the Dash with three on-target shots and six total. US Women’s National Team midfielder Morgan Brian led all players for both teams with 61 total passes at an 86.9 percent accuracy rate.
All 10 NWSL teams will be on bye week next weekend as the league pauses for a brief international break. Four Spirit players - Pugh (USA), Labbé (Canada), Zadorsky (Canada) and Lindsay Agnew (Canada) have been called into their respective national team camps for a set of upcoming friendlies.
Washington will return to NWSL play on Saturday, June 17 for an away game against the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL on Lifetime Game of the Week. Kickoff is set for 4:00 pm from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL. The Spirit’s next home game will be on Saturday, June 24 against Portland Thorns FC. Tickets for all Washington Spirit home games are available now at the Washington Spirit Website.
Top: The Spirit’s Cheyna Williams (20) scores her first goal of the season past goalkeeper Lydia Williams in the third minute of Saturday’s match versus the Houston Dash.
Next: Mallory Pugh (11) shows her break-away speed as she races past Houston midfielder Denise O’Sullivan (13).
Next: USWNT standout Mallory Pugh (11) scores her first professional goal putting the ball through the legs of Dash goalkeeper Lydia Williams in the 69th minute of Saturday’s match.
Next: Spirit goalie Stephanie Labbé (1) skies over her defender Estelle Johnson (24) to grab a ball driven from midfield during Saturday’s game.
Next: Spirit defender Alyssa Kleiner (22) had a team-high eight clearances.
Photos by Germantown Pulse