The Washington Spirit will look to extend its home unbeaten streak to five games on Saturday night when the team plays host to the Christen Press, Julie Ertz and the Chicago Red Stars at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm with a live stream available on go90.
The Spirit have earned points in each of their past four games at the Maryland SoccerPlex, dating back to June 3. “We’re all looking forward to playing back at home in front of our fans and the Spirit Squadron,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “We’ve had a really long stretch of a lot of away games so it’s going to give us a lot of confidence to go on a run in the last quarter of the season.”
In their first match-up of the season back on June 17 at Toyota Park in Chicago, the Spirit and Red Stars played to a 1-1 draw. Nigerian international forward Francisca Ordega scored her third goal of the season on an assist from Cheyna Williams in the 42nd minute to give the Spirit a 1-0 halftime lead, but U.S. international Christen Press earned and converted a penalty kick in the 82nd minute to equalize for the Red Stars.
Press, who is fourth in the NWSL with nine goals on the season, has scored three goals against the Spirit since the start of 2016, her second-most against any team over that span. She and recently-signed Japanese international Yūki Nagasato, who has scored 58 goals in international play since 2004, will pose a healthy challenge for the Spirit defense.
“Chicago is a very difficult team to play against, they’re a physical team and they now have two quality world international forwards up front with Press and Yūki,” Gabarra said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us defensively to stay disciplined and committed to our style of play.”
Offensively for Washington, Havana Solaun continues to lead the team in goals with five, and she is tied with Ordega for a team-high in assists with three. Five Spirit players have scored at multiple goals this season for the team’s balanced attack, including Solaun (5), Ordega (4), Cheyna Williams (3), U.S. international Mallory Pugh (3) and defender Estelle Johnson (2).
On the defensive side, Johnson ranks second in the NWSL in interceptions with 60 through her first 18 appearances this season. Canadian international goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé enters the weekend sixth in the league with 66 saves.
For the Red Stars, U.S. international midfielder Julie Ertz is third in the league with 59 interceptions. U.S. international Alyssa Naeher is third among all NWSL goalkeepers with five clean sheets in her first 18 games.
The Spirit made some roster moves this week, claiming US. U-23 Women’s National Team midfielder Morgan Proffitt off waivers and trading midfielder Kristie Mewis to the Chicago Red Stars in exchange a first round pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft.
Proffitt, a 22-year-old rookie out of Marquette University, was waived by the Chicago Red Stars earlier this week. The 2016 Big East Conference Player of the Year was drafted with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft by the Red Stars, and played in seven games with the club, starting one. Since 2016, Proffitt has been included on multiple U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team rosters.
After attending training camp with the team in April 2016, she was among 20 players selected by head coach Janet Rayfield for the Nordic Tournament in England last summer, and helped the U.S. win the international event. Proffitt was called into U-23 camp again in early 2017 at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif.
A native of Columbus, Indiana, Proffitt attended Columbus North High School and played youth soccer for Carmel United Soccer Club.
The Mewis deal gives the Spirit a high draft pick. The Spirit will receive the higher pick of the two first round selections that Chicago currently holds in the upcoming draft. The Red Stars hold Seattle Reign FC’s pick as well as their own natural position in the first round.
Mewis, 26, was traded to the Spirit from the Boston Breakers during the 2016 offseason. She appeared in 14 games, including 10 starts this season with Washington, scoring two goals and recording one assist. Mewis was a big part of the Spirit offense early in the season, but with the additions of Mallory Pugh and Estefania Banini she began to see a drop in playing time.
"We want to thank Kristie for all she's done for the club this year,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “She's made several strong contributions to help our team this season. We wish her all the best in Chicago.”
The Spirit will play two home games in a span of four days, starting with Saturday’s match against the Chicago Red Stars. On August 30, Washington will host the North Carolina Courage for a midweek game at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Tickets are still available for both games at the Spirit website.
Top: The Spirit and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé (1) will face the Christen Press and the Chicago Red Stars at the Maryland SoccerPlex at 7:00 pm on Saturday.
Next: The Spirit hope their leading goal score Havana Solaun (9) find the back of the net against Chicago on Saturday.
Next: Earlier this week, the Spirit traded midfielder Kristie Mewis (19) to the Chicago Red Stars in exchange a first round pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.