Mild, sunny weather. A couple thousand fans nearly filling the stands and spreading out over the hillside. Crystal Dunn creating chance after chance.
Washington Spirit fans had a lot to enjoy Saturday afternoon at the SoccerPlex. The result — a 2-0 win over Penn State — wasn’t particularly important, though longtime Spirit fans will be relieved to see the team no longer losing these preseason encounters with college squads. More important was the promise of quality play on a lovely spring day.
That said, it’s still a team in preseason, with a few things to iron out:
– New central defender Shelina Zadorsky gifted a chance to Penn State’s Frannie Crouse.
– Goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, keeping alive the Ashlyn Harris “keeper/sweeper” tradition, was caught out when Crouse got the ball and retreated, not quickly enough to do anything about the shot. Fortunately for her, Crouse’s chip hit the crossbar.
– Plenty of chances were created but not finished. Just a few moments of indecision from Francisca Ordega and rookie Cheyna Williams.
None of which should cause Jim Gabarra any real concern.
“It was really good that they were willing to press us and force us into mistakes,” the new Spirit coach said. “That’s how you learn, and in the first half, I thought we were cheating a little bit in our passing and our defensive spacing.”
Diana Matheson was in good form and good spirits, even if some ill-timed PA announcements ruined my recording of our interview. Let me check: “We have a new coach and staff, but I think they’ve worked to keep a lot of SEASON-TICKET HOLDERS, THE RED ZONE IS FOR LOADING AND UNLOADING ONLY continuity with what was working BE SURE TO HAVE YOUR WRISTBANDS AND DON’T LEAN ON THE RAILING keep possession and try to get that quality instead of rushing IF YOU ARE NOT HERE FOR THE MEET-AND-GREET, PLEASE GO TO RED ROBIN AND FORM A MASSIVE LINE …”
Crystal Dunn was happy with the chemistry she and Williams have already developed. That was evident on the first goal, right after halftime, with Williams getting to the end line and crossing back for Dunn to rip it into the net.
“The game kind of calmed down as it went on, and that made a difference,” Dunn said.
And yes, Gabarra is happy to be back in front of a big crowd at the SoccerPlex (it filled in considerably after this pregame picture), where he led the Washington Freedom for years.
“It’s great. Some things don’t change, and then there’s a lot of changes. Five years is a long time, but it’s still one of the best facilities in the country. Glad to be here and hopefully add some value to the club and get us to the next step.”