Washington, D.C. (05/05/2023) – The Washington Spirit will face San Diego Wave FC on Saturday afternoon in both sides’ sixth match of the 2023 regular season. The match kicks off at 1 p.m. EDT at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. and will broadcast nationally on CBS for fans across the United States. International viewers can stream the match on NWSLSoccer.com as well.
The Spirit is coming off a 1-1 road draw against Chicago, making the side one of two teams (alongside Portland Thorns FC) that remains unbeaten through the first five games of the regular season. In that match, defender Sam Staab broke the NWSL record for consecutive regular season starts, making her 73rd in a row. This week, Staab was named to the NWSL’s Best XI of the Month.
Forward Ashley Hatch began the scoring last weekend, executing a penalty kick in the 29th minute for her fourth goal of the season. Hatch has converted all five of her penalty kick attempts during her Spirit career and is now tied with Kansas City’s Debhina and Portland’s Sophia Smith as the top scorer this season. This is Hatch’s third consecutive season scoring three or more goals within the first five games of the NWSL regular season. Two of Hatch’s five career penalty kicks with the Spirit have come this season, both in road matches. She and NJ/NY Gotham FC’s Midge Purce (who has scored two penalties in just as many away matches this season) are the first NWSL players since 2016 to score two road penalties in the first five games of a season.
The Spirit’s last match against San Diego – also at Audi Field – resulted in a 4-3 victory, with the game-winning goal coming off a penalty by Hatch in the 10th minute of second half stoppage time. Both Amber Brooks and Alex Morgan notched braces in that game, making it the highest scoring regular season NWSL game in Audi Field history. This victory was the second time the Spirit has won a regular season match when conceding three or more goals – the team was 1-30-4 prior to that.
Goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury’s 80% save percentage is tied for second-best in the NWSL. Comparatively, Wave FC keeper and reigning NWSL Goalkeeper of the YearKailen Sheridan has allowed a ninth-best 68.18% save percentage. Sheridan has faced only two more shots than Kingsbury, while the two have made the same number of saves, including the same number of saves inside the box.
Notably, the Spirit still owns the best big chance conversion rate (66.7%), as well as recording 750 passes in the team’s own half – the fewest in the league by over 120 passes. When the Spirit is on the defense, it has been solid, clearing 113 balls (2nd in the NWSL) and allowing only 14 corners (1st in the NWSL), which has made way for the team’s high pressing attack. The Spirit has won 50 possessions in the attacking third (2nd in the NWSL) and has logged 45 touches in the opponent’s box (4th in the NWSL).
Following Saturday’s match, the Spirit will continue its homestand at Audi Field against the Orlando Pride in the team’s second Challenge Cup match on Wednesday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Most recently, San Diego Wave FC fell, 1-3, in a puzzling decision to the Orlando Pride who own the bottom spot on the NWSL table. Coming into that match, Orlando had scored only one goal and conceded ten in four matches. Orlando’s victory against San Diego accounted for its first and only points of the season.
Jaedyn Shaw scored the lone goal in San Diego’s most recent match, her third of the season and the sixth of her career. She is tied with Alex Morgan for the most goals by a Wave FC player this season. Still only 18 years old, Shaw’s six career goals are as many as all other players aged 18 or younger combined (Olivia Moultrie – 3, Alyssa Thompson – 2, Ellie Carpenter – 1). Among all teenagers in NWSL history, she ranks second in regular season goals scored, trailing only Mallory Swanson (8), despite having 18 months remaining as a teenager. Shaw is tied with Spirit forward Trinity Rodman and NWSL legend Sam Kerr at six.
On April 30, 15-year-old Melanie Barcenas made her NWSL debut for San Diego. Months prior, she ousted the Spirit’s Chloe Ricketts as the youngest player to sign an NWSL deal and now defeats Olivia Moultrie’s (POR) record of being the youngest player to make an NWSL appearance. Barcenas is also the first local youth player to sign with an NWSL club.
Wave FC defender and USWNT player Naomi Girma joins the Spirit’s Staab on the Best XI of the Month. Girma earned her 25th straight start in Saturday’s match against Orlando. The former 2022 No. 1 overall draft selection won both Rookie and Defender of the Year last season.
Although San Diego has scored nine goals (4th in the NWSL), the side has the second-fewest touches in the opponent’s half (842) in the league. They are also tied for the league’s second-lowest passing accuracy in the opponent’s half (61.64). Moreover, San Diego has recorded three less shots on target (20 – 23) than the Spirit but three more goals (9 – 6). The discrepancy is due in part to Wave FC’s extreme offensive efficiency – a 16.98% shot conversion rate, good enough for second best in the league.
San Diego travels to Audi Field with a lot of road momentum. In its last road match, Wave FC defeated Angel City FC to earn its sixth road shutout win in league play since joining NWSL last season. No other NWSL team has more than three clean sheet victories on the road in regular season play in that time.
Next up, San Diego continues its three-game road trip, traveling to Kansas City to play the Current on Sunday, May 14th at 6 p.m. EDT.
- The all-time series history between the two teams is split 1-1-0, with both teams earning victories at their respective home venues. In both games, the Spirit has scored in second half stoppage time.
- The Spirit finished last Saturday’s match with an expected goals value of 2.92, the third-highest expected goals tally of any team in an NWSL match this season. Dating back to last season, Washington is winless in its last six games when having an xG of 2.0 or higher – three draws and three losses.
- The Spirit has lost only three of 17 regular season matches played at Audi Field. San Diego joins Louisville and Gotham FC as the three teams that the Spirit has beaten in every matchup at Audi Field.
- Matt Thompson will be refereeing his second Washington Spirit regular season match – the first was a 2-2 draw versus the Orlando Pride in May of 2022.
- Former Spirit players meet again:
- Wave FC goalkeeper Shae Yanez signed her first professional contract with the Spirit in 2019.
- Wave FC midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard played with the Spirit from 2017-20, making 68 appearances.
- Former college teammates meet again:
- Spirit defender Sam Staab played with Wave FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan at Clemson (2015-16).
- Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Civana Kuhlmann played with Wave FC midfielder Belle Briede at Stanford in 2017 and from 2017-20/21, respectively.
- Kuhlmann also played with Wave FC defender Naomi Girma and midfielder Sierra Enge at Stanford (2018-20/21).
- Spirit midfielder Bayley Feist played with Wave FC midfielder Giovanna DeMarco at Wake Forest (2018).
- Spirit midfielder Marissa Sheva played with Wave FC defender Kaleigh Riehl at Penn State (2015-18).
- Spirit midfielder Ashley Sanchez played with Wave FC goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy at UCLA (2017-19).