Francisca Ordega netted her team-leading fourth goal while the Washington Spirit defense recorded its second clean sheet of 2017 in a 1-0 victory over Portland Thorns FC in front of 4,319 fans at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday evening.
Ordega scored what proved to be the game-winner in the 19th minute on a breakaway immediately following a quick Portland turnover in the midfield. As she reached the top of the box, Ordega fired a shot from the left side into the far right corner of the net, well out of the reach of Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.
Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé saved all three shots on goal that she faced, playing behind a back line of Kassey Kallman, Shelina Zadorsky, Estelle Johnson and Whitney Church. Kallman led the Spirit with five tackles, as Zadorksy had a team-high seven clearances and Johnson led all players on both teams with five interceptions. It was the team’s second straight shutout effort at home.
Among the 4,319 fans was US Women’s National Team Superstar and former Spirit striker Crystal Dunn. She opted to play in Europe for Chelsea Women and forego her NWSL season. If she returns to the NWSL, the Spirit still retain her rights. Dunn’s presence at the game fueled speculation that there might be a chance that she might return to the team this year since the European season has ended.
“I was pleased with how we defended and how we managed the game at the end,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “It was an important win on our home field against one of the best teams in the league.”
Havana Solaun led Washington with 43 total passes, 34 of which came on the attacking side of the field. Meanwhile, Kristie Mewis recorded two on-target shots to match Ordega for a game-high. Midfielder Tori Huster also made her return to the lineup and played the full 90 minutes after missing the last four games with a quad injury.
While Washington outshot Portland 16-11, including six on-target shots to Portland’s three, Thorns FC managed to win the possession battle 62.7 percent to Washington’s 37.3 percent. U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Allie Long distributed the ball more often than any other player in the game, as she made 74 total passes with 86.5 percent accuracy. Long’s U.S. teammate, Emily Sonnett was second with 71 total passes while Emily Menges’ 93.7 percent accuracy rating on her 63 passes was a game-high as well.
Earlier in the week, the Spirit announced the team had re-signed Argentine international forward Estefanía Banini. Per team and league policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The dynamic 26-year-old playmaker returns to Washington following a brief stint with Spanish club Valencia. Banini played for the Spirit from 2015-2016 and led the team in scoring last season. Despite playing in only 13 games due to injury, Banini earned the Spirit 2016 Golden Boot award, netting five goals in a seven-game stretch.
“Having Estefi return to the Spirit is something we were hopeful would happen last fall,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “We’re looking forward to having her back in our lineup and continuing her impressive development. Her impact will be a big asset as we continue to battle through the NWSL regular season toward the goal of reaching the NWSL championship match again.”
During the 2016 season, Banini also earned NWSL Goal of the Week for Week 13, NWSL Player of the Week for Week 13, and NWSL Player of the Month for July. Banini has played for the Argentina Women’s National Team since 2010 and has scored seven goals across major competitions including the Women’s Copa America in 2010 and 2014, and the 2014 South American Games.
Saturday’s victory extends Washington’s current unbeaten streak to three, marking its longest run of the season. The Spirit will return to action next Saturday, July 1 as the team visits the Boston Breakers at Jordan Field. Kickoff is set for 4:00 pm.
The Spirit play home next on Saturday, July 8 when the team hosts the Orlando Pride at the Maryland SoccerPlex for the NWSL on Lifetime Game of the Week. Coverage starts at 3:30 pm on Lifetime.
Top: Spirit Celebration – Franny Ordega (14) gets a big hug from Tori Huster (23) after scoring the only goal of the match to propel the Spirit to victory and 3-points.
Next: Ordega’s goal from the top of the 18-yard box went just over Portland’s Emily Sonnett (16) and in front of Emily Menges (4).
Video: Highlights of the Spirit vs Thorns FC game. Courtesy NWSL.
Next: Spirit forward Chenya Williams (20) moves the ball up the pitch while making a run in the first half of the game.
Next: Midfielder Tori Huster (23) returned to the lineup and played the full 90 minutes after missing the last four games with a quad injury.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.