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Boyds, Md., (9/4/2019) – The Washington defense will be critically important in the final stretch of the season as the Spirit goes up against the likes of, Portland, North Carolina and Chicago — the top three teams in the NWSL and leaders in goals scored.
This season, the Spirit’s center back Paige Nielsen has proven to be a crucial part of the Spirit defense, which has conceded only 19 goals and tallied 7 clean sheets.
The 25-year-old starter from Lincoln, Nebraska attended North Carolina University, where she won the 2012 NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship as a freshman.
Nielsen was drafted 8th by the Seattle Reign in the 2016 NWSL draft and then later had a brief stretch with Apollon Ladies FC, and she finished the season with the Western Sydney Wanderers of the W-League. The following season Nielsen played for Suwon UDC in South Korea, and in 2018 she made five appearances for Canberra United of the W-League.
Since joining Washington in February, Nielsen has started in 16 games of Washington’s 18 games and has accumulated 1374 minutes played for the Spirit this season. Her presence on the backline has become a reliable part of an unyielding Spirit defense.
Nielsen’s defensive awareness is best showcased in her week 7 NWSL Save of the Week, which helped preserve a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars:
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) May 29, 2019
In her last four full games, Nielsen has averaged:
Nielsen plays a significant part in moving the ball within the Spirit’s own half of the field, as she’s led the team in total passes and average passing accuracy over the last three games.
“Our mantra is ‘winning is a habit’,” Nielsen said in a press conference before the season. “No matter who we play we’re gonna score as many goals as possible and we’re gonna not allow goals.”
The Spirit will return to Audi Field in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 14, as they attempt to overcome Reign FC. Kickoff is set at 7:30 p.m. ET. Spirit fans can stream the game on NBC Sports Washington and Monumental Sports Network.