Coach’s Corner: Jim Gabarra, Spirit prepare for ‘big challenge’ vs. Orlando Pride in Home Opener

Washington Spirit  |   March 28, 2018
Coach’s Corner: Jim Gabarra, Spirit prepare for ‘big challenge’ vs. Orlando Pride in Home Opener Featured Image

Boyds, MD (March 28, 2018) – Washington Spirit Head Coach and General Manager Jim Gabarra said the team is looking forward to facing a ‘big challenge’ this Saturday, as 2017 NWSL semifinalist Orlando Pride visits the Maryland SoccerPlex for the Spirit’s 2018 Home Opener. [TICKETS]

Following Washington’s season-opening defeat in a tough road test against Seattle Reign FC on March 24, the club has spent this week looking to build on the positives from the second half of the 2-1 result. After falling behind 2-0 at the half, the Spirit racked up seven shots on goal, while holding over 55 percent of the possession time in the second half.

“We’ve had a really good mindset in training, really good energy, and kind of building off the second half in Seattle, where I though we were a lot better,” Gabarra said on Wednesday after training. “Again, we’re starting to get to know each other better, building relationships among players. It’s kind of a work in progress, but we’ve been really happy with the week of training, and we’re looking forward to getting out to the SoccerPlex in front of the Spirit Squadron.”

Saturday’s season-opener against Seattle marked the regular season debut for 2018 NWSL College Draft No. 1 overall pick and U.S. international Andi Sullivan, as the rookie out of Stanford University played the full 90 minutes in the midfield. This Saturday’s home opener is e expected to be the regular season debut for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Canadian international defender/midfielder Rebecca Quinn.

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“I think [Quinn and Sullivan] are anxious to get started and play together,” Gabarra said. “We’re looking forward to seeing the value they can give us when they’re on the field together. It’s something we’ve been seeing progress on in training, and we’re looking forward to seeing it in a match situation.”

As for Orlando, Gabarra and the Spirit are preparing to go up against a plethora of weapons on the attacking side for a Pride team that led the NWSL with 45 goals in 2017. Orlando played Utah Royals FC to a 1-1 last weekend in their 2018 regular season opener.

“Orlando’s got a really balanced, diverse attacking roster,” Gabarra said. “Even without Marta or Alex Morgan, they’ve still got Rachel Hill – who had a really successful rookie season – and Chioma Obogagu and Sydney Leroux, who’s a proven goal scorer to plug in. They have a lot of wins and they’re very organized defensively, and they’re a very strong team that made the playoffs last year, so it will be a big challenge.”

The Spirit and Pride will go head-to-head Saturday in the first of three NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime matches being played at the Maryland SoccerPlex this season. The nationally televised match-up between Washington and Orlando at the SoccerPlex sold out in 2017, and this Saturday is expected to feature another packed house at the SoccerPlex’s Maureen Hendricks Field.

“It’s a great surface to play on, the SoccerPlex does a great job with the fields here,” Gabarra said. “It’s our home, we’re here every day training and it’s a very intimate atmosphere. The fans are right on top of us, and it’s a very supportive atmosphere, and it’s something the players feed off.”

Single game tickets for the Spirit’s regular season home games, including their March 31 home opener against the Orlando Pride, are available now at or by calling the club’s ticket office at 301-591-0927.

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