BOYDS — Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the Washington Spirit held the second-place ranked team in the National Women’s Soccer League to a score of nil. On the flip side, the visiting Reign FC held the Spirit to nil as well. Both teams walked away with a point in the standings.
Saturday must have been a day of miracles. On the opposite side of the globe in the World Cup competition, Iceland held off Argentina and the man of legends Lionel Messi for a 1-1 draw. Closer to home, the Utah Royals stunned the North Carolina Courage, the league leader in points for the NWSL, with a 1-0 win over the Courage in North Carolina. What a day for unexpected outcomes.
Back to the game at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the Spirit’s star keeper Audrey Bledsoe now leads the league with saves. Bledsoe continues to improve with each match, moving up the ranks of keepers in the NWSL. Although she embodies trace amounts of the looks and attitude of her mentor last season, Orlando Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris, she developed her own style on the pitch that works well. The draw against Seattle added another shutout to her record for a total of four for this season.
The biggest save of the night for Bledsoe had to be the penalty kick attempt by Seattle’s forward and Women’s U.S. International player, Meagan Rapinoe. In the previous matchup between these two teams, Rapinoe scored a goal off a penalty kick against the Spirit; not in this match. Bledsoe prevented a potential repeat of Rapinoe’s previous goal by stopping the incoming ball on the ground.
After the game Bledsoe said “I kind of try to read the run up, and it looked like she was going to open up, go to my left; luckily she didn’t, so sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you are not. Luck was in my favor.”
Head coach Jim Gabarra said the team had a good match, adding that they had a “good strong performance from the midfield but we haven’t been able to find or finish the chances we get.”
The match had many free kicks by Seattle, all stopped by the Spirit and Bledsoe’s self-described “tall wall.”
Gabarra had a slightly different story to tell about the free kicks in the match.
“I thought we were really good in defending them, we were aggressive. I will have to watch the tape to see how many of them were really free kicks. We’ll see, it’s a matter of opinion.”
In the end, the Spirit played an aggressive game. It was more physical than what the team has shown in the past which made for some excellent play. Nine points separate second and ninth place in the league standings. Three wins in the next few games could shoot the Spirit right into the playoffs.
Will the weekend of miracles continue into next weekend? The Spirit will return to the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds to face the Orlando Pride at 7 p.m. on June 23. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNews.