The Washington Spirit (1-2-0, 3 pts) will make their first of two visits to Providence Park this season on Friday night to face 2017 NWSL champion Portland Thorns FC (2-1-0, 6 pts). Kickoff is set for 10:30 pm with a live stream available on go90.
Friday night will be the first of three total match-ups between Washington and Portland this regular season. The Spirit are in fifth place heading into the early season match-up, while Thorns FC ranks third in the NWSL table. Both teams have scored five goals through their first three contests, and are tied for third in goals per game.
“It’s always a challenge playing in Portland, so we’ve got to get our shape right, and get our defensive balance right,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “It’s an opportunity to go out and perform in one of the best environments in the world.”
For the Spirit, U.S. international forward Mallory Pugh enters the game having put together the first scoring streak of her NWSL career, finding the net in each of Washington’s past two games.
The Highlands Ranch, Colo. native scored the game-winner in the 80th minute of Washington’s home opener against the Orlando Pride on March 31, and opened the scoring in just the third minute of the Spirit’s most recent game against the North Carolina Courage on April 14.
Three other Spirit players - midfielder Joanna Lohman, U.S. international forward Ashley Hatch and Nigerian international forward Francisca Ordega - have each netted one goal so far this season. Washington’s attacking unit has racked up 15 shots on goal, third-most in the NWSL through three regular season games.
They will go up against a Thorns defense, led by U.S. internationals Meghan Klingenberg and Emily Sonnett that has conceded just four goals through three games in 2018.
“[Portland] has been one of the best defensive groups in the league the last couple years, so it’s going to be an opportunity for us make sure we execute on any chances we create,” Gabarra said.
Meanwhile for the Spirit defense, goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe enters Friday night’s match leading the NWSL with 21 saves through Week 3.
Captain Estelle Johnson has been a bright spot on the Spirit back line at center back, leading the NWSL with 26 defensive clearances. Outside back Caprice Dydasco has won 91.7 percent (11-of-12) of her tackle attempts, also leading the NWSL.
Washington’s defensive unit will be tasked with slowing down Canadian international Christine Sinclair, who is the NWSL’s first player to reach three goals this season, while also adding an assist. U.S. international midfielder Lindsey Horan is off to a strong start as well, scoring two goals and assisting one in her first three games.
Top: Mallory Pugh (11) and the Spirit will travel to Portland to take on the Thorns tonight.
Next: Nigerian international forward Francisca Ordega (14) has scored one goal this season.
Next: The Spirit’s first-round draft pick this season Andi Sullivan (6) steals the ball from North Carolina’s Lynn Williams (9) during last week’s game at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.