Washington Spirit looked like the stronger team for much of Sunday night’s game but couldn’t finish their chances early and settled for a draw.
The Spirit had the better of their opponents in the first half, appearing well-coordinated on the attack and effectively controlling Portland in the defensive third. Washington had most of the chances as well, although few of their 7 shots really taxed Thorn goalkeeper Bella Bixby. After the match, Spirit coach Mark Parsons praised his team for their execution but acknowledged they had not made the most of the 1v1 and 2v1 chances that they created for Trinity Rodman and Ouleymata Sarr.
Things changed a bit when Sophia Smith was injured toward the end of the half, seemingly reinvigorating her teammates. Aubrey Kingsbury had to make a couple of big saves, but the Spirit defense held, and the game was still scoreless at the half.
The Spirit continued to dominate early in the second half and had several good opportunities to score, including a shot by Rodman in the 56th minute that required a diving save from Bixby. The tide turned again in the 64th minute when Thorn midfielder Sam Coffey made a smooth pass to forward Morgan Weaver in the Spirit’s box. Kingsbury made a rare 1v1 error, coming out of the box to try to intercept Weaver, and the Thorn chipped the ball over her head into the goal.
Portland’s goal deflated the Spirit, and they were on the defensive for much of the next 15 minutes. Finally, at the 87th minute, Rodman had a big chance when she received a long pass into the box. The ball bounced off the arm of a Thorn defender, and after a VAR review, the Spirit were awarded a penalty kick. Ashley Hatch took the penalty kick, calmly faking out Bixby and hitting a solid strike into the left corner of the goal. This was Hatch’s 8th straight converted penalty for the Spirit and 9th goal of this season.
Both teams continued to seek the game winner as stoppage time stretched on for over 10 minutes, but neither was able to score again, ending the match in a tie. The draw will keep the Spirit in playoff contention but keeps the pressure on for some more wins to close out their season.
Like Parsons, Hatch was largely complimentary of the team’s performance in this match. “I think you want to come out every game and absolutely do your best. For me, I want every game to be a statement game,” Hatch said. “I’m happy with how we’re doing, but I still think our best soccer as a unit is ahead of us.”
- New and returning players make an impact. Before the match, Parsons stressed that the team was still working to reintegrate new players and those returning from the World Cup. They might be farther along in that regard than he implied, as all of those players made a big impact on the game. Newly-signed forward Sarr was especially impressive for how well she was able to coordinate with her teammates in just her second Spirit match.
- Sophia Smith injury. Thorn forward Sophia Smith was injured at the end of the first half and ended up leaving the match on crutches at halftime. Smith was the star of Portland’s last game against the Spirit but had largely been kept off the ball this game. Here’s hoping her injury isn’t too serious and that she recovers well!
- Rowdy Audi. Attendance at Audi Field has increased steadily throughout this season, the team’s first with the Buzzard Point stadium as their full-time home. Tonight’s total of 13,048 was the highest attendance since 2019, and the fans made their presence known, screaming for fouls and chanting support for their players. The Spirit players and staff have spoken about the energy they get from the fans. After today’s match, Kingsbury said, “I love playing at Audi. I think this team hits a new level at Audi: we’re incredibly hard to beat.”
NWSL Regular Season – Game 17
Washington Spirit 1 (Hatch 90′ pen)
Portland Thorns FC 1 (Weaver 64′)
Washington Spirit (433): Aubrey Kingsbury (C); Dorian Bailey, Tara McKeown, Sam Staab, Gabby Carle (Annaïg Butel 77′); Andi Sullivan, Paige Metayer, Ashley Sanchez (Chloe Ricketts 67′); Trinity Rodman (Lena Silano 90+10′), Ouleymata Sarr (Camryn Biegalski 67′), Ashley Hatch
Portland Thorns FC (433): Bella Bixby; Meghan Klingenberg (Reyna Reyes 71′), Emily Menges, Meaghan Nally, Natalia Kuikka; Sam Coffey, Rocky Rodriguez (Taylor Porter 45′), Olivia Moultrie (Crystal Dunn 71′); Morgan Weaver, Christine Sinclair (C) (Hina Sugita 61′), Sophia Smith (Hannah Betfort 45+4′)
Washington Spirit: Butel 90+9′
Portland Thorns FC: Rodriguez 41′