Fresh off back-to-back victories, the Washington Spirit (2-1-1) will play their regular-season home opener on Sunday against the Orlando Pride (3-0-1) at 2 p.m. from Audi Field. The two clubs are the league’s best through four matches; Orlando currently holds the No. 1 seed with 10 points, while Washington is right behind in the No. 2 spot with seven points.
The Spirit have played four road matches to start the season, including a season opener at Orlando, which resulted in a 1-1 draw. To date, it’s Orlando’s only non-victorious result. The two clubs have continued to develop quite the rivalry. They’re neck-and-neck historically (5-5-3) with five wins apiece and three draws.
After a 2-0 loss at Racing Louisville FC brought Washington’s record to 0-1-1, the Spirit righted the ship on the strength of goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe’s defense. A mainstay for Washington since 2018, Bledsoe only allowed one goal across the Spirit’s last two matches, both wins. On May 26th, they beat Houston 2-1 behind goals from rising star Ashley Sanchez and longtime Spirit striker Ashley Hatch, followed by a 1-0 win over Megan Rapinoe’s OL Reign squad this past weekend.
Having a goalkeeper on top of their game is always important, but it’s especially true for this weekend’s matchup against the Pride. Orlando’s firepower comes by way of two household names in women’s soccer: Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux. Morgan, a USWNT legend, is the NWSL leading scorer with four goals and the reigning NWSL Player of the Month. Leroux, who also won a World Cup with the USWNT, is tied for second place in goals scored this season.
For the Spirit, Hatch is also tied with Leroux for second place in goals scored thus far, and Trinity Rodman (daughter of NBA legend Dennis Rodman) is second in the NWSL in shots on goal. In goal, Aubrey Bledsoe has played all 360 minutes for the Spirit, tied for the most in the league.
While there were a few Spirit matches at Audi Field in mid-April for the NWSL Challenge Cup, Sunday’s showdown is shaping up to be a hot ticket. It will be the only Spirit match at Audi Field during the month of June and the buzz around the team is growing. Not only is the team playing well at the moment, but the league is starting to catch on with a greater swath of fans. From Alex Ovechkin buying an ownership stake in the Spirit to national rights deals with CBS and Twitch, the Spirit and NWSL at large are growing. Per The18, male fans in 2021 have increased 354 percent over 2020.
The Spirit routinely drew big houses before the pandemic, yet Sunday’s game — even at the 36 percent restriction — will be the biggest in a long time. Tickets are being sold in socially distanced groups, per the Spirit’s website, and masks are mandatory. For those who can’t make it on Sunday, the game will stream on Paramount+ at 2 p.m.
If you want to go to the game on District Fray, we’ve teamed up with the Washington Spirit to give one winner 4 club-level tickets for the match with access to the Eagle Bank Club. To enter, follow both @dcfray and @washingtonspirit and tag three soccer pals on this IG post.
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