The Washington Spirit returns home to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday night for the first of three matchups this season against the second place Chicago Red Stars.
Washington earned a point on the road in its most recent game, a 1-1 draw at Providence Park against reigning NWSL champion Portland Thorns FC. Nigerian international forward Francisca Ordega found the net for a second straight game, and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe racked up five saves, including a game-saving stop on a penalty kick in the 87th minute.
On Saturday, the Spirit with have another opportunity to earn points against a team near the top of the NWSL table. Chicago is unbeaten in its past three games, as U.S. international goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and the back line have conceded just one goal during the month of April.
“Chicago's a really good team with a lot of high quality players,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “They’re a huge challenge for us and it’s a really big game against a team in the top part of the league. We need to get the three points at home.”
Washington’s attack has scored in every game this season, and features two players - Ordega and U.S. international forward Mallory Pugh - who are tied for second in the NWSL with two goals each. U.S. international and 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year Ashley Hatch found the net in her home debut on March 31, fitting in well with the Spirit’s group of dynamic young forwards.
“It’s been a good experience, I think we all play the same kind of football,” Ordega said. “We’re all kind of skillful and fast, and it’s a really good feeling, especially playing with Mal [Pugh]. She’s one of the greatest players now with the [U.S.] national team.”
The Spirit’s high powered offense will go up against a Red Stars defense which has earned clean sheets in two of its past three games.
Washington’s defense has one clean sheet on the season, a 2-0 win over the Orlando Pride on March 31, and turned in another strong effort last weekend, holding Thorns FC to just one goal on a penalty kick.
Bledsoe leads the NWSL with 26 saves, which is double the next highest total. On the back line, Caprice Dydasco leads Washington with 16 interceptions, and captain Estelle Johnson has a team-high 33 clearances.
They will be tasked with slowing down 2017 NWSL Most Valuable Player Sam Kerr, who is scheduled to make her debut with the Red Stars on Saturday after returning from international play with Australia.
U.S. international forward Sofia Huerta has scored or assisted four goals for Chicago already this season, while midfielder Danielle Colaprico has contributed one goal and two assists. U.S. international Julie Ertz, could make her regular season debut on Saturday night after recovering from a knee injury.
Washington will welcome back Argentine international Estefanía Banini and Chilean international Yanara Aedo, who re-joined the club following the conclusion of Copa América Femenina.
Tickets for Saturday’s game are available at WashingtonSpirit.com or by calling the club’s ticket office at 301-591-0927.
Top: Defender Estelle Johnson (24) and the Washington Spirit will battle the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday evening at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.
Next: The Spirit’s goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe (1) leads the NWSL with 26 saves, which is double the next highest total.
Next: Caprice Dydasco (3) leads Washington with 16 interceptions.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.