The Washington Spirit, already hit by numerous injuries stemming back to last year, lost another key piece today, as striker Francisca Ordega was placed on the 45 day disabled list due to a knee injury suffered in training this week. According to the club, Ordega will have to undergo an arthroscopic procedure to correct a chondral defect in her knee. Losing Ordega - who leads the team in both goals (4) and assists (3) - is a harsh blow for an attack that was just rounding into form.
The fact that Washington is using a 45 day designation rather than a season-ending injury (as was the case with Joanna Lohman, who tore her ACL less than 20 minutes into the season opener) is reason for optimism. The Spirit would be able to re-activate Ordega in the final week of August, provided that her recovery goes as planned.
In the meantime, it will be difficult for the Spirit to replace Ordega for multiple reasons. Only five players league-wide have more goals than the Nigerian international, and she’s tied for second across the NWSL in assists. There’s also the less quantifiable factors she brings. Ordega’s speed, physical strength, and rambunctious approach to the game are all things the Spirit have built around when they attack. Washington’s style of play this season is all about playing runners in behind the defense, and Ordega is the main beneficiary.
Ordega’s injury has opened the door for rookie forwards Arielle Ship and Lindsay Agnew to establish themselves on the front line. With the recent decision to release target forward Katie Stengel, the Spirit don’t have any experienced center forwards. Ship has shown some promise, and has 4 starts among her 8 appearances (including time as a center forward). The California native works hard to help pressure defenses and has a knack for forcing turnovers and finding her teammates, and had a good track record as a goalscorer in college.
Agnew, meanwhile, is the closest match to Ordega in terms of raw speed. At 5’9”, the Canadian international could also provide the sort of physicality that the Spirit need as a contrast to their other attackers (who mostly tend to be smaller, quicker, creative types). However, she has just 137 minutes of playing time so far this year, and is seen more as a right winger. Canada has even looked at her as a potential right back, but it is worth noting that Jim Gabarra has used Agnew as a center forward (most recently on April 29th’s 1-0 loss to the Houston Dash).
Other candidates to step in for Ordega could include Cheyna Williams or even Kristie Mewis, who in recent games has had to function as a forward in defensive phases as the Spirit have focused on shifting from a 433 to a 442 when defending. It would be an unorthodox look, but Mewis does have underrated speed and is more than willing to do the dirty work required to lead the line.
The Spirit will maintain their overall depth up front, as Ordega’s injury has occurred just as forward Cali Farquharson has been officially cleared to return to action. Farquharson - a second-year player who tore her ACL last September - has been training for several weeks, and will take the roster spot opened by Ordega being placed on the disabled list.
“Cali has done a tremendous job through the recovery process,” said Gabarra via a team press release. “She has looked very sharp in training and is ready to go.” Farquharson had 16 appearances last season (including 8 starts) and figures to fit into the Spirit’s rotation on either side of the forward line.