Washington Spirit hosts FC Kansas City Saturday for Mallory Pugh’s first pro game

Washington Spirit  |   May 19, 2017
Washington Spirit hosts FC Kansas City Saturday for Mallory Pugh’s first pro game Featured Image

Over 3,500 tickets sold, reserved seating sections likely to sell out

BOYDS, MD (May 18, 2017) – The Washington Spirit (1-3-1, 4 pts) will play host to FC Kansas City (1-2-2, 5 pts) on Saturday for a historic night at the Maryland SoccerPlex, as 19-year-old U.S. Women’s National Team star Mallory Pugh suits up for her first professional match as the NWSL’s youngest current player. [TICKETS]

Pugh joined the Spirit for her first week of training ahead of Saturday’s matchup with FC Kansas City, and hit the ground running with her new teammates and coaches.

“At training I felt like I just meshed right in,” Pugh said during her introductory press conference on Tuesday. “There were smiles all over the field which I love, because if you’re not having fun with what you’re doing, you’re not going to succeed. I can tell everyone is having fun but is also really competitive.”

+READ: Mallory Pugh officially introduced as member of Washington Spirit

Washington is coming off a 6-2 loss at Seattle Reign FC last weekend, but returns to the SoccerPlex this week where the Spirit won its last match 4-3 over Sky Blue FC on May 6.

“We’re excited to play in front of our home crowd on a special night for our club,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “We’re looking forward to a great challenge against a very good Kansas City team.”

Once again, Kansas City has established itself as an elite defensive side, having allowed an NWSL-best three goals on the season. The team is led by U.S. Women’s National Team captain Becky Sauerbrunn, who has racked up a league-high 36 clearances through her first five games. Sauerbrunn’s partner at center back, another Team USA player Yael Averbuch, is second in the NWSL with 28 clearances.

Washington’s defensive stars have shined early in the season as well, highlighted by NWSL April Team of the Month selections Stephanie Labbé and Estelle Johnson. Labbé, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics with the Canadian national team, is first in the NWSL with 27 saves through her first five games. Meanwhile, Johnson has piled up a team-high 20 interceptions.

Whitney Church has served as another anchor on the Spirit back line,  making a team-high 21 clearances and six blocks.

On the attacking side, the Spirit have picked up momentum over the past two matches as Francisca OrdegaHavana Solaun and Kristie Mewis combined to score Washington’s six goals. during that stretch. Solaun has found the net in each of the past two games, including a converted penalty kick last week against her former team, the Seattle Reign.

Ordega earned NWSL Player of the Week honors for Week 4, scoring two goals, assisting Solaun on another, and forcing a Sky Blue own goal in the Spirit’s 4-3 victory. Mewis, who joined the club from the Boston Breakers in the offseason, netted her first goal as a member of the Spirit last week in Seattle.

Pugh, who turned 19 years old on April 29, has made 22 appearances and scored four goals for the U.S. Women’s National Team since she received her first call-up in January 2016. She became the youngest player in U.S. history to score an Olympic goal while competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, finding the net in a 2-2 draw against Colombia.

“It’s important that we let Mal enjoy the process, and really be free just to learn and develop,” Gabarra said. “This team is in a good place and we’re welcoming the injection of energy and youth, and the quality that she’s going to bring.”

More than 3,500 tickets have already been sold for Saturday’s match at the SoccerPlex, as Pugh makes her highly-anticipated pro debut. Some assigned seating sections are expected to sell out, while general admission fans are encouraged to arrive early if seeking bleacher seats the best positions on Spirit Hill. [TICKETS]

Top Facts, Provided by Opta

  • Washington has won four of the last six games against Kansas City (1L-1D). FC Kansas City has never won in Washington, losing four of the five contests there (1D). The Spirit have outscored Kansas City 11-4 in the five games played in Washington.
  • Washington has won just one of their three games at home this season (2L). The Spirit have conceded five goals at home this season, the most in the league.
  • FC Kansas City has struggled offensively so far this season when they have been on the road. The club has been shutout in its road games, the second consecutive season that has happened. They went on to finish the season with a 5W-4L-1D road record.
  • Washington goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé has 27 saves, the most in the league. Labbé has also faced 93 shots, 21 more than the next closest goal keeper.
  • FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn has 36 clearances this season, the most in the league. Sauerbrunn’s centerback partner Yael Averbuch is second in the league with 28 clearances.

Head-to-head stats:

Wins Wins GF GF
All-time 10 5 3 2 15 13 + 2 WAS
At WAS 5 4 0 1 11 4 + 7 WAS
2016 2 2 0 0 5 2 + 3 WAS
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