Preview: Washington Spirit set to open 2023 season at Audi Field against OL Reign

Washington Spirit  |   March 25, 2023
Preview: Washington Spirit set to open 2023 season at Audi Field against OL Reign Featured Image

May 1, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch (33) battles for a header against OL Reign forward Ally Watt (7) and OL Reign midfielder Nikki Stanton (2) during the second half at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington, D.C. (03/25/2023) – The Washington Spirit will face Seattle’s OL Reign on Sunday afternoon in both clubs’ regular season opener. The match kicks off at 4:00 p.m. ET at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., the new permanent home of the Spirit. The match will broadcast on Paramount+ for fans in the United States and stream on for international viewers. 

The Spirit 

The Spirit kicks off its 2023 campaign against OL Reign in a rematch of last year’s season opener in which the Spirit prevailed, 2-1.  

Despite trailing in the 28-match history of the series (8-13-7), the Spirit is 3-0-2 against OL Reign dating back to October 2021. The Spirit is on a nine-match unbeaten streak against OL Reign dating back to 2018, including a victory in a 2021 NWSL semifinal and an advancement after penalties in a 2022 Challenge Cup semifinal. Washington has only allowed two goals in its past five matches against the Seattle-based club. 

Additionally, this match marks the beginning of the Spirit’s full-time residency at Audi Field. Last season, the team went 4-2-3 at Audi Field and had a +5 goal differential.

The Spirit roster returns key pieces including current USWNT members Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez and Andi Sullivan, returning veterans Sam Staab, Aubrey Kingsbury and Dorian Bailey as well as a host of newly-signed players including Gabrielle Carle, Inès Jaurena, Nicole Douglas and Chloe Ricketts. 

Forward Ashley Hatch is the only NWSL player to record nine or more goals in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Last season, she netted nine goals on only 35 shots while tying for third-best in the NWSL with three penalty kick goals.

Midfielder Ashley Sanchez finished the 2022 season tied for third in the NWSL with a team-leading five assists. She was one of two players to put more than 40 shots on goal in less than 1,400 minutes played, joining Red Stars and USWNT striker Mallory Swanson (formerly Pugh).

Defender Sam Staab became one of only seven players to earn Iron Woman recognition in 2022, playing in every minute (1,980) of every regular season match (22) last season. If not for a red card that would later be overturned in the 2021 season, Staab would have played every minute of every regular season game in her entire three-season NWSL career. 

This match will also serve as a return to the District for former Spirit player Emily Sonnett, who contributed to the club’s 2021 championship run. Former Spirit players Quinn and Rose Lavelle also make the trip back to the District for the opening game. Finally, defender Anna Heilferty will be out for the rest of the season after sustaining a knee injury in preseason training. 

Following Sunday afternoon’s match, the Spirit travels to Kentucky to play Racing Louisville FC at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 1. 

The Opposition 

Reigning NWSL Shield winners, OL Reign posted an impressive 11-4-7 record in the 2022 season, winning six of its last seven matches and topping Portland Thorns FC by one point in the regular season table. This marked the third Shield for OL Reign since joining the NWSL in 2012 and the club’s first since 2015. However, the team would go on to lose in the NWSL Semifinal for the second consecutive year, getting shut out by the fifth-seeded Kansas City Current, 0-2. 

In August, OL Reign also hoisted the 2022 Women’s Cup trophy, defeating Racing Louisville FC, 2-1, in the final. Last year, the Women’s Cup, a global friendly invitational tournament, welcomed Club America (Mexico), Tottenham Hotspur (England), AC Milan (Italy), OL Reign (U.S.) and the host club Racing Louisville FC (U.S.). 

OL Reign finished the 2022 season with the second most shots by a team (277), buoyed by Rose Lavelle’s 51 shots which tied for third-best in the NWSL. Additionally, Reign keeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce was one of the most formidable netminders, posting a league-low .91 goals against average over 23 games started. She logged 66 saves on the season.  

USWNT members Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, Rose Lavelle, Megan Rapinoe and Emily Sonnett will anchor OL Reign’s squad. Both Huerta and Cook are coming off of NWSL Best XI nominations in 2022. 

This matchup will mark one of three road games in under a month for OL Reign, with its next match coming Saturday, April 1 against NJ/NY Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. 


  • Sunday’s match marks the start of the first season the Washington Spirit becomes a full-time tenant of Audi Field. Beginning this year, the Spirit will play all 14 home matches at the Buzzard Point venue. 
  • Goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury can make her 100th career NWSL regular season appearance with playing time on Sunday. Since joining the Spirit in 2018, Kingsbury has twice won NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year (2019, 2021), set the NWSL regular season saves record (108) in 2018 and was named the 2021 NWSL Championship MVP. 
  • The Spirit is 3-0-2 in the club’s last five matches against OL Reign, with wins in a 2021 NWSL Semifinal and 2022 season opener as well as an advancement after a penalty kick shootout in the 2022 Challenge Cup semifinal. 
  • The Spirit is unbeaten over its last nine games played against OL Reign with a 4-0-5 record in that time. Washington has never lost to OL Reign under its current designation – the last loss in the series occurred in 2018 when the Seattle-based club was still called Seattle Reign FC. 
  • The Spirit defeated OL Reign, 2-1, in last season’s home opener. This was only the second time OL Reign gave up two or more goals in a season opener, with the previous occurrence coming against Gotham FC (then Sky Blue FC) in 2016. 
  • Forward Ashley Hatch, entering her sixth year with the Spirit, is the only NWSL player to record nine or more goals in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. In the last three seasons, Hatch has scored 26 goals in 52 appearances, averaging one goal in every two games. 
  • One current Spirit player will face her old club on Sunday as defender Amber Brooks played for Seattle Reign FC/OL Reign in 2015 and again in 2020 and 2021. 
  • Three former Spirit players return to the District.
    • OL Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle returns to Washington after spending two seasons with the Spirit in 2018 and 2019. During her tenure, she appeared in 17 matches, scoring one goal.  
    • Defender Emily Sonnett will also make her return after playing for the Spirit the previous two seasons. Sonnett was a crucial element to the Spirit’s backline during the team’s championship run in 2021. She joined OL Reign earlier this year after a trade that returned the Spirit the 32nd overall pick in the 2023 NWSL draft and OL Reign’s natural first round pick in 2024. Sonnett also played under current Spirit Head Coach Mark Parsons with Portland Thorns FC, winning the 2017 NWSL Championship. 
    • Quinn, a former Spirit first round draft selection in 2018, will make their return to Washington. The OL Reign midfielder started in 16 of 17 games with the Spirit, playing 1,382 minutes. 
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