By Celia Balf
After just two weeks of NWSL play, Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe has already made her presence known. Last season, the Ohio native had a standout season for the Orlando Pride where she started 11 of the Pride’s 24 regular season games in net and earned two shutouts, while filling in for the injured Ashlyn Harris. The Spirit acquired Bledsoe this past January, and it didn’t take the Wake Forest alum much time to find herself in that starting role. Bledsoe leads the league in saves (14) and earned her first shutout of the year in the Spirit’s 2-0 win over her old side, the Orlando Pride, in Week 2 action.
Before the Spirit host the league-leading North Carolina Courage this Saturday, April 14, NWSL Media got the chance to catch up with Bledsoe on her off day.
Question: Two games in with the Spirit now, a new team for you and a young team at that, how would you evaluate the way things are going so far?
Aubrey Bledsoe: We are a very young and new team. Obviously [we] brought in a lot of U.S national team faces, draft picks, so it took us a bit to gel and we’re still working on those relationships [on the] the field — like knowing what to expect from each other and how to play into each other’s strengths. We’re still deciding what our identity is and what style of play we’re going to embrace, so we’re still very much a work in progress. But, we’ve already seen some great progress from Seattle to our home opener and I think we’ve got a huge upside in that we have a lot of attacking talent — obviously Mallory Pugh; one of the best up and coming players in the country if not the world, and yeah we’ve got a lot of different weapons. Now, if we can focus on our organization, our communication, and just ironing some of those things out, I think we could be a really dangerous team come the end of the season.
Q: You mentioned Mallory Pugh just there, and I couldn’t help but notice that during the last game you ran up to her in a full sprint after she scored in the 80th minute — how excited were you?
Bledsoe: A lot of people were like: “We were shocked to see you out there!” But keepers are all by themselves, and I was so excited! It was a great goal, especially in the 80th minute and it looked pretty deadlocked at zero…and I wanted to join in on the celebration! So yeah, it was a big goal for us!
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) March 31, 2018
Q: How would you describe yourself as a player?
Bledsoe: I think I have a lot of composure. I am pretty consistent; I pride myself on making the saves that are required of me to keep my team in the game and then I hope to be able to pull off the big world class saves that really propel us to a win. I think consistency is key and knowing that you can depend on your keeper. I think I’m really quick and I’m working on being more aggressive off my line — especially going into North Carolina here, they like to play over the top, so I think my speed is a huge advantage that I have. So I think if I can keep making the right decisions and use that to my advantage.
Q: Since we are on the topic of North Carolina, what kind of preparation goes into facing an attacking team like the Courage?
Bledsoe: A lot of it is making sure I’m connected to our backline and that we’re reading balls over the top. They have so much speed and they look to play pretty direct, so we have to read the cues and make sure we are dropping and trying to keep them in front of us as much as we can. So just positionally making sure I’m connected to them and when I can come and kind of tweak those balls that come through our backline and then just making sure they don’t get anything easy in over the top.
Q: What are some things you say to your backline — especially if it’s a game that is much more in your half than the other side?
Bledsoe: It’s mainly commands and directions; you’ll hear me say “drop,” or “step” a lot. Of course, I like to cheer them on and really celebrate like if they block or something. If someone makes a great play I’ll say, “Yes Estelle [Johnson]!” Or, “Love that!” Things like that, just to let them know they are doing a great job, because ultimately if I can get my defenders to work in front of me it makes my job a lot easier. So it’s a lot of commands, but at the same time I’ll try to get pumped up when they make good plays.
Q:Which player has the hardest shot on your team — Or which player in a 1-v-1 situation are you like — “Oh gosh, she’s coming.”
Bledsoe: Huh…That’s a good question…
Q: Doesn’t have to be hardest say, could also be unpredictable?
Bledsoe: All of our forwards bring something unique, so it’s not necessarily the hardest shot that would challenge me, but it’s the players who can pick out if I’m leaning or out of position and then can score the opposite way. So, obviously — Mal is a great finisher because of her speed. Franny [Francisca Ordega] is a bit of a wild card because of her speed as well and Ashley Hatch is a good finisher. Really everyone brings something different, so I wouldn’t say there is anyone that is all power, but they all offer something unique. Yeah even Tori Huster will pick her head up… she’s always looking to chip me, so she keeps me honest making sure I am dropping quickly enough to my line. We have a lot of weapons that bring different types of finishes.
Q: What is something that NWSL fans might not know about you?
Bledsoe: I come from a goalkeeping family, strangely, so my twin sister was a keeper. Even in high school, she actually played the field and I was in goal and we played on different club teams, but my brother is a goalkeeper and he plays professionally in Nashville, for Nashville SC. People are always like something is in the water at the Bledsoe household to have three Division I keepers in college out of four siblings, that’s pretty crazy, so I think that’s a fun fact. I’m very close with my siblings in my entire family, so it’s fun for me to get to train with my brother now. I’ll get my sister out there to train me in the offseason too. We’re just a big soccer family and they’ve really supported me and helped me out along way.
Q: How often do you and your siblings get to train together now?
Bledsoe: Offseason is pretty long, so offseason we’ll train a good bit. Like during Thanksgiving vacation. Maybe normal families would spend more time just relaxing, but me and my brother would be up early hitting the gym, or getting a field session in. Christmas too, kind of embrace the routine together.
Q: And lastly, what can we expect to see from you this season?
Bledsoe: I’m just hoping for a consistent performance throughout the season and to keep growing and evolving my game as the season progresses. I would love to see the Spirit in the playoffs, so hopefully I can help contribute to that. My ultimate goal would be to get a shot at the national team, so I’m hoping that my performance in the league will earn me a call in. I just want to be the best I can be and help the team win.