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By Owen Krucoff
Boyds, Md., (6/18/19) – The Washington Spirit have exhibited a new-and-improved defense this season, tying the NWSL lead with just five goals allowed through eight games. One of the catalysts behind the improvement has been rookie defender Sam Staab, who has made a name for herself in her first few months on the Spirit’s back line.
Staab has played all 720 minutes of the league campaign this year since Washington drafted her out of Clemson University with the fourth overall pick in the NWSL Draft. She has been a key cog in the backfield, racking up 503 passes (an average of 62.9 per game) and a 92% pass accuracy rate in the defensive half.
But stopping opposing attackers is where Staab has really shone. She has yet to lose a tackle in her pro career, boasting a perfect 100% success rate on her attempts to win the ball, and has made a number of highlight stops, including this one in a 2-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars on May 26:
Slide Tackle Staab pic.twitter.com/eNBmXww8Zx
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) May 28, 2019
In last weekend’s game at Reign FC, Staab picked up a team-high three interceptions to go with seven clearances and two blocks as the Spirit drew 1-1 to extend their unbeaten streak to six games. As her heat and touch maps show, much of Staab’s impact came on the left side of the defensive half.
One of Staab’s best games so far came on June 1 against Utah Royals FC, where she led the team in passes (87), touches (98) and clearances (3). Her position was critical to Washington’s 2-0 win because Utah spent 42% of its attacking half possession in Staab’s third of the field.
The first major accolade of Staab’s career came at the end of last month when she was named in the NWSL’s Team of the Month for May alongside three other Spirit players. Her defensive prowess has helped propel the team to the top of the league, but it has also placed her firmly in the conversation for Rookie of the Year as well.
Staab and the Spirit will look to extend their unbeaten run and maintain their first place position on June 22 against the Houston Dash. Kickoff for the Spirit’s inaugural Pride Night at the Maryland SoccerPlex is set for 7 p.m. [TICKETS]