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By Owen Krucoff
Boyds, Md., (5/28/19) – The Washington Spirit have soared to a first-place tie in the NWSL standings with a three-game win streak against Reign, Portland and Chicago, thanks largely in part to the shot-stopping heroics of goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
Bledsoe, the record holder for most saves in a single season, is the NWSL’s save leader again so far this season with 26 stops, including a seven-save performance in Washington’s 2-0 win at the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.
With the Spirit protecting their two-goal lead late in the contest at SeatGeek Stadium, Bledsoe made three huge saves to keep the Red Stars off the scoreboard and earn her third clean sheet of the season.
In the 83rd minute, Chicago defender Arin Wright headed a corner kick toward goal, but the shot was quickly redirected by midfielder Nikki Stanton. Bledsoe was not fooled by the ball’s change of direction and gobbled up the rolling ball for her fifth save of the night.
The Red Stars’ attack did not let up, and as the match continued deep into second-half stoppage time, Bledsoe was tested again. In the 94th minute, she made a diving stop on a low-driven volley from Chicago defender Casey Short, and she picked up her final save a minute later by knocking down a well-hit rising attempt off the foot of Red Stars forward Jenna Szczesny.
94' – Name a better keeper. We'll wait.#CHIvWAS // #SpiritFam pic.twitter.com/Iz3PLaRqNc
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) May 27, 2019
The victory at SeatGeek Stadium was the Spirit’s sixth game of the season, and Bledsoe has played every minute of each contest so far. Bledsoe has kept 26 of the 30 shots to come her way in 2019 from reaching the back of the net, good for an 86.7% save success rate.
Bledsoe’s success has already been recognized with a variety of awards this season. She earned NWSL Player of the Week and Save of the Week honors following her shutout of Reign FC on May 4, and was named the Westfield W-League goalkeeper of the year after leading Sydney FC to an Australian league title during the NWSL offseason.
With her highlight performances, impressive stats and early resume of awards, Bledsoe has established herself as one of the best goalkeepers in the NWSL. She has given up just four goals across the six games, a mark bested only by Nicole Barnhart of Utah Royals FC.
Royals FC, the Spirit and the two most effective netminders in the league will meet for a battle at the top of the table this Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kick-off will be at 7 p.m. ET with gate D & the Fan Zone opening at 5:30 p.m. ET for all ticket-holding fans and Gate A opening at 6:00 p.m. [TICKETS]