Washington Spirit finally got a win at home Saturday night in an intense match against Angel City FC. After going up 2-1 in the first half, the Spirit held on through a tough second half to win all three points.
The Spirit started slow, struggling to connect passes or build an attack for the first 30 minutes, while Angel City pressed high and sought to play out wide to circumvent the Spirit’s midfield diamond. Though Washington had a few chances stopped by ACFC goalkeeper DiDi Haračić, Angel City kept the ball in the Spirit’s half for most of this time, winning six corner kicks to the Spirit’s zero.
Washington finally broke through in the 31st minute, when defender Gabrielle Carle was able to to carry the ball toward the box and pass it laterally to midfielder Inés Jaurena. Jaurena made a quick pass to forward Trinity Rodman, who crossed the ball into the box. Midfielder Ashley Sanchez got a high boot on it, attempting to steer the ball on frame, but it was batted away by Haračić. Fortunately for the Spirit, forward Ashley Hatch was positioned right in front of goal who headed it neatly in.
The goal was initially called offside, but VAR showed that Hatch had been onside and awarded Washington the goal.
With control of the game evening out, Washington capitalized on another chance in 41st minute. Midfielder Paige Metayer made a cross to the far post, finding the head of Ashley Sanchez, who was able to loop the ball over the goalkeeper to put the Spirit up 2-0.
Angel City struck back quickly, with a goal by MA Vignola after good team build-up along the left side of the pitch found her open in the box. Washington attempted to increase their lead with a few big shots, including a daring midfield shot from Hatch while Haračić was out of her goal. The shot was on target, but Angel City’s keeper was able to sprint back to save it just feet from the goal, bringing the half to an end with Washington up 2-1.
The second half was a back-and-forth battle as both teams unsuccessfully sought another goal. Both teams had chances, although the Spirit did well to keep dangerous players like Alyssa Thompson and her substitute Sydney Leroux largely out of play. Washington’s own substitutes added some needed energy in the second half of this fast-paced, physical game, and midfielders Nicole Douglas and Marissa Sheva in particular made some key interceptions to set up Spirit chances.
After keeping her team in the lead with multiple saves and recoveries, goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury was injured in the 81st minute while diving forward to make a save. She stayed in the match initially but took a knee shortly thereafter and eventually, after hugging Andi Sullivan and passing on the captain’s armband, left the pitch to some of the biggest cheers of the night. Nicole Barnhart, a 41-year-old veteran of the league, made her first appearance for Washington but 142nd overall when she stepped out in the 90th minute to take Kingsbury’s place.
The loss of Kingsbury seemed to rattle the Spirit, and they were on the defensive for most of the 10 minutes of stoppage time. Compressing their shape and buoyed by a few saves by their substitute keeper, Washington was able to fend off Angel City’s attack and won the match 2-1.
- Best wishes to Kingsbury – The second half of this match was made even more nerve-wracking by the substitution of starting keeper Kingsbury after an apparent head injury. As team captain and one of the best goalies in the league, Kingsbury is integral to the success of the Spirit, and we hope she’ll be safely back on the pitch soon.
- Goals in open play – The Spirit have struggled to score in open play throughout this season, with many of their goals coming from set pieces and penalty kicks. It was refreshing to see two goals from open play in this match, especially with Ashley Hatch’s goal putting her in the lead in the Golden Boot race.
Washington Spirit 2 (Hatch 33′, Sanchez 41′)
Angel City FC 1 (MA Vignola 45+2)
Washington Spirit (4-4-2): Aubrey Kingsbury (C) (Nicole Barnhart 90′); Gabrielle Carle, Sam Staab Tara McKeown, Dorian Bailey; Andi Sullivan, Inés Jaurena (Marissa Sheva 74′), Paige Metayer, Ashley Sanchez (Nicole Douglas 74′); Trinity Rodman (Civana Kuhlman 90+), Ashley Hatch (Lena Silano 78′)
Angel City FC: (4-3-3): DiDi Haracic; Ali Riley (C), Sarah Gorden, Paige Nielsen, MA Vignola (Jasmine Spencer 62′); Savannah McCaskill (Clarisse Le Bihan 75′), Julie Ertz, Lily Nabet (Dani Westherholt 61′); Alyssa Thompson (Sydney Leroux 62′), Katie Johnson (Scarlett Camberos 51′), Claire Emslie
Washington Spirit: Bench 90+11′
Angel City FC: None