One day before they face the NWSL leading North Carolina Courage at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the Washington Spirit announced Tuesday afternoon that rookie forward Arielle Ship will miss the remainder of the NWSL season after suffering a torn right ACL in the second half of Saturday’s home game against the Chicago Red Stars.
The rookie out of the University of California - Berkeley started and played the first 67 minutes against Chicago before a collision along the sideline forced her out of the game.
“Injuries are always awful, especially ones that are generated by contact,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “I felt like that was Ari’s best game of the season so far, so it's really disappointing and sad that she'll miss the rest of the season. We'll provide her with the support and quality medical resources to get her back as strong as ever.”
Ship appeared in 14 games, including nine starts, during her rookie season while compiling 688 total minutes. She scored a goal and recorded two assists on August 4 in a 4-1 road win over Sky Blue FC, earning her NWSL Player of the Week honors for Week 15.
Wednesday night will mark the second leg of a quick two-game homestand for the Washington Spirit, who will play host to the league-leading North Carolina Courage at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET with a live stream available on go90.
Spirit rookie and U.S. international Mallory Pugh notched the first assist of her pro career against Chicago, setting up Williams’ point blank header on a long aerial pass from a free kick. The Spirit attack will look to continue its positive momentum from the second half of the game against the Red Stars as it hosts a 13-win Courage squad looking to become the first team to clinch a spot in the NWSL Playoffs.
"It's another big challenge for us against a strong Carolina team," said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. "We will continue to try to find some positive momentum and play to our standards while earning a result."
The Courage have gotten the best of the Spirit so far this season, winning both of the first two meetings between the sides. North Carolina defeated Washington 1-0 on the opening weekend of the regular season back in April, despite a career-high eight save performance by Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. North Carolina came away with a 2-0 win in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in the teams’ second match-up on August 19.
The Spirit attack has three players ranked in the top 20 among the league leaders in goals, including Havana Solaun (5 goals), Nigerian international Francisca Ordega (4 goals) and Williams (4 goals). Williams has found the net in each of the team’s past two games at the Maryland SoccerPlex, and has scored in three of the team’s last five games overall.
Defensively, Washington is led by Estelle Johnson, the only Spirit player to have started all 19 games. Johnson is first on the team with 64 interceptions and in tackles attempted with 45. Canadian international Shelina Zadorsky has made a team-high 79 clearances from her center back position, and she is tied with Whitney Church for the lead in blocked shots with 15.
North Carolina has the top-ranked defense in the NWSL with only 14 goals allowed through 18 regular season games. The Courage have racked up a league-high 10 clean sheets, and have only allowed 61 opposing shots on target, 19 fewer than the next stingiest defense. Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland leads the league in save percentage, having stopped 32-of-36 shots faced (88.9 percent).
On the attacking side, U.S. international and 2016 NWSL Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams is tied with Ashley Hatch for the Courage team lead with five goals. Williams, U.S. international teammate Sam Mewis and forward Makenzy Doniak lead the Courage with three assists each.
Following the third and final meeting of the season on Wednesday against the Courage, the Spirit will travel to Portland for the NWSL on Lifetime Game of the Week against Thorns FC at Providence Park. The next Spirit home game will be on Saturday, September 23 when the team plays host to the Boston Breakers at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Tickets are still available for both tomorrow’s game and the Sept. 23 game against Boston at the Spirit website.
Top: Spirit rookie forward Arielle Ship (2) is carried off the field after suffering a torn ACL injury in Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to Chicago.
Next: U.S. international Mallory Pugh (11) notched the first assist of her pro career in Saturday’s game against Chicago.
Next: Spirit forward Havana Solaun hopes to add to her 5 goal tally on Wednesday night vs. North Carolina.
Next: International player Estefania Banini has yet to score in this 2017 NWSL season.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.