A frustrating match ends the Good Time Spirit’s good times.
- Undefeated No More – The Spirit were the talk of the NWSL for the past week after last year’s champions, Portland Thorns, went down, leaving Washington as the lone unbeaten club. That’s all over now, as Orlando got an early penalty and a second half set piece goal to top the Spirit 2-1. The NWSL is the most competitive domestic women’s league in the world, and unfortunately the Spirit were on the wrong end of a reminder.
- Fun While it Lasted – Washington’s unbeaten run also had them sitting at the top of the table by two points, with a chance to extend their lead. The loss ended that, and San Diego now sits atop the table, tied on points with the Spirit but with a better goal differential. Sunday’s games will offer OL Reign, Gotham and/or Portland to bump the Spirit down even further.
NWSL Regular Season – Matchday 8
The match began with a scare after the opening kick was played back to Sullivan for a long ball forward and Rodman was barged into from behind by Haley McCutcheon. Rodman was down for the first three and a half minutes of the match and was cleared to re-enter. Not a great way to start a match at all!
Just over ten minutes later Rodman returned the physicality favor by bowling over a Pride player from behind and being issued the game’s first yellow card.
Orlando continued to find ways to cause the Spirit problems, and just after twenty minutes Adriana drew a penalty. She was able to face up with Amber Brooks 1v1 in the box and the defender guesses wrong, sticks out a leg and Adriana tumbles over for a surefire penarly. Marta stepped up and converted to put the Spirit 1-0 behind for the first time this season.
The unfamiliar position made the next goal became important, and we didn’t have to wait long to get it. In the 28th minute the Spirit won a corner and used a short corner routine to get the ball to Inès Jaurena in space wide just outside the box. She lined up and picked out a perfect cross into the box, and Sam Staab rose highest to nod it into the back of the net.
It was then Orlando’s turn to respond, and they began to link play in midfield and probe for gaps yet again. One such move put Sullivan in a bad position, and she was forced to commit a tactical foul and earn the game’s second yellow card. No team could wrestle full control, so the two traded spells of working the ball around their opponent’s penalty area, but no clear chances came.
After four minutes of stoppage time the teams headed back down the tunnels tied at 1-1.
Orlando began the half unchanged while Mark Parsons swapped Amber Brooks, who conceded the penalty, for Dorian Bailey. The Spirit have used halftime’s well to reset their intensity, and just over a minute into the new half they seemed on a similar trajectory.
Sanchez, Rodman and Hatch came close to combining for a beautiful chance when Sanchez played Rodman through and Hatch made a darting run to the near post but couldn’t connect with Rodman’s cross. The near chance was a sequence that the Spirit hadn’t been able to create in the first half, and a signal of intent.
A few minutes later the Spirit were testing Orlando keeper Anna Moorhouse from distance. Having scored four outside of the box goals against Orlando in the Challenge Cup a week ago, Andi Sullivan and Dorian Bailey took turns walloping the ball at goal. Sullivan hit a long range shot that started dipping just as it was nearing the frame of the goal, but Moorhouse timed her jump well and tipped it over the bar. Bailey tested her again just a minute later, sending a sweet left footed volley toward the keeper that she scrambled to graze wide.
After the flurry, Orlando gained momentum from not conceding and began to reapply pressure. A flurry of corners led to a couple nervy moments just after the hour mark, but the Spirit did enough to deny them a crucial strike at goal. With the score knotted and twenty minutes left to play, Parsons called on Lena Silano to replace Ashley Hatch, giving the rookie a chance to hunt for a goal against the same opponent that conceded her first professional goal.
Instead, five minutes later the Pride took the lead again.
A deflected shot led to a corner for Orlando. Their corners had been dangerous all match due to the striking ability of Marta and Adriana. The legend Marta got her placement right yet again and aimed for the back post where Kylie Strom popped up to get a decisive strike on goal. The header was too close to be saved and the Pride took the lead again. Seconds ago the Spirit were preparing to craft a winning goal, now they needed an equalizer to keep their unbeaten record alive.
Parsons brought on 15-year-old sparkplug Chloe Ricketts with just under ten minutes of normal time. Marissa Sheva and Nicole Douglas followed as the Spirit hoped their fresh legs would find a route to goal in the muggy Florida heat. The match entered four minutes of stoppage time with the scoreline still 1-2 to the Pride. The Pride sought to disrupt play as much as possible, heading to corners and flicking the ball off Spirit players and out of play so seconds could tick away while they took throw-ins with the urgency of a sloth.
To much frustration, the final whistle confirms it and the Orlando Pride are the first team to beat the 2023 Washington Spirit.
Orlando Pride – 2 (Marta 23′ [p], Strom 77′)
Washington Spirit – 1 (Staab 28′)
Pride (4231) – Moorhouse; Strom, Madril, Montefusco, McCutcheon; Cluff, Villacorta; Adriana, Marta (Martinez 90+2′), Abello (Listro 90+2′); Bright (Watt 66′)
Spirit (442) – Kingsbury (c); Carle, Staab, McKeown, Brooks (Bailey 46′); Metayer (Sheva 89′), Sullivan, Jaurena (Ricketts 81′); Sanchez (Douglas 89′); Hatch (Silano 70′), Rodman
Pride – McCutcheon (90+5′)
Spirit – Rodman (15′), Sullivan (36′), McKeown (83′)