The Washington Spirit have acquired goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and the Orlando Pride’s natural 1st round pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft in exchange for defender Shelina Zadorsky.
Bledsoe joins the Spirit after spending the past two seasons with the Pride. The 26-year-old goalkeeper from Wake Forest University first came into the league in 2015, when she signed with Sky Blue as a discovery player, and was subsequently selected by the Pride in the 2015 NWSL Expansion Draft.
Bledsoe is coming off a year in which she started 11 of the Pride’s 24 regular season games in net, earning two clean sheets and racking up 36 total saves. She earned a pair of NWSL Save of the Week honors, in Week 9 and Week 12. She is currently in Australia playing on loan with Sydney FC in the W-League during the offseason.
The move calls into question who the Spirit’s top keeper will be for the 2018 season. While Stephanie Labbe is still the projected starter for Washington, the addition of Bledsoe seems to indicate that Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé’s return to the Spirit next season is in doubt. Labbé started 17 games for the Spirit last year. Labbé also missed a large part of the 2017 NWSL season due to mental health issues. If she were to leave, Washington would still have Bledsoe, DiDi Haracic, and Kelsey Wys vying for the starting job.
“We believe that Aubrey is one of the top goalkeepers in our league and feel like she gives us incredible depth in that position,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “Her development over the past three years has been exceptional.”
Zadorsky appeared in 34 total games, including two playoff games, for the Spirit from 2016-2017. The Canadian international defender recorded an assist in an NWSL semifinal victory for the Spirit in 2016, and in 2017, she led the team with 100 clearances from her center back position.
“Shelina has been a tremendous player and person to our team the past two seasons,” Gabarra said. “It is difficult to let her go. We thank her for her commitment to the Spirit and wish her good luck in this next opportunity.”
The Spirit has announced two exhibition games which will be included in the club’s 2018 NWSL preseason schedule. Washington will return to Evergreen Sportsplex in Leesburg, Va. for the second straight year on Saturday’s March 10 for a friendly against 22-time women’s college champion University of North Carolina.
On March 17, the Spirit will host the first ever NWSL match played in Richmond, Va. when they face the North Carolina Courage at the historic City Stadium. Tickets for the game in Richmond are on sale now at RichmondKickers.com.
Washington Spirit 2018 Season Tickets are on sale now at Tickets.WashingtonSpirit.com.