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Notes from the Washington Spirit's intrasquad game

With the season opener under two weeks away, the Spirit split into two teams for a scrimmage

Tony Quinn/Washington Spirit

The Washington Spirit had planned a preseason game Saturday against the University of North Carolina, only for the Tarheels to cancel due to player availability concerns. With the regular season fast approaching, the Spirit played an intrasquad scrimmage instead. The Spirit also had an issue with player availability: hey had already trimmed down their preseason roster, and on top of that Crystal Dunn and Ali Krieger had left camp for national team duty. To supplement their squad, the Spirit called up five high school players in their academy system.

The Spirit played two 35 minute halves followed by planned penalty kicks at the end. The Spirit split into two teams, with both Spirit A and Spirit B using a 433 formation:

Starters for Spirit A: Kelsey Wys; Sarah Adams, Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church, Kara Wilson; Joanna Lohman, Christine Nairn, Diana Matheson; Cheyna Williams, Katie Stengel, Olivia Fiegel

Starters for Spirit B: Stephanie Labbe; Alyssa Kleiner, Shelina Zadorsky, Megan Oyster, Caprice Dydasco; Tori Huster, Alli Murphy, Haley Rosen; Yanara Aedo, Cali Farquharson, Estefania Banini

One of the amateur call-ups, Myra Konte, a junior at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Va., scored the equalizer for Spirit B. Konte replaced Cali Farquharson at halftime and appeared on the score sheet four minutes later. Caprice Dydasco broke free at midfield and slipped the ball to Konte at the edge of the 18-yard box. Konte juked out the defender and slotted her shot past Wys.

Christine Nairn scored the initial goal of the game, a goal from a free kick for the second week in a row. In the 16th minute, her side earned a foul at the left corner of the 18-yard box. The wall was probably shifted too much to the left and Nairn took advantage, curling a shot around the right side of the wall and past goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.

After the game, the team practiced a penalty kick shootout. For Spirit B, three of the penalty kicks missed. Wys saved efforts from Shelina Zadorsky and Megan Oyster, while Alyssa Kleiner hit hers well over the goal. Dydasco was the only one on her team to convert her kick. Each of the three penalty kick takers on Spirit A - Nairn, Joanna Lohman, and Cheyna Williams - converted their kicks.

Key takeaways

1. Defensive transition will be key for the Spirit

Just like last week, the Spirit were exposed on quick counter attacks. Part of this is because the Spirit hold a high line when they have possession. When the team fails to quickly transition to a defensive posture after losing possession, a through ball or a ball over the backline is all it takes to get behind the defense. Last week, head coach Jim Gabarra also mentioned that defensive spacing was an issue in the first half against Penn State.

2. The starting keeper position is still up for grabs

After the game, Gabarra declined to name a starting goalkeeper. Both keepers were a mixed bag during the 70 minutes this Saturday. The two keeper each had acrobatic saves but also costly errors. Labbe will miss the Spirit's final preseason game and will be in camp with Canada from April 4th to April 13th. The Spirit's first game is three days later so if Labbe starts in the Spirit's season opener she'll need to quickly adjust to the final roster.

3. Spirit dealing with minor injuries

Per Gabarra, Australian forward Hayley Raso "rolled her ankle" and was scratched from the starting eleven. At halftime, Raso walked back to the locker room on her own power but in a boot. Rookie forward Cali Farquharson, who is in competition for the final roster spot, missed more than a week of training due to a "little bit of a knock". Farquharson played in the first half of the scrimmage and came off at halftime.