Spirit XI posing before facing Gotham FC

The Washington Spirit suffered yet another defeat, losing 2-0 to NJ/NY Gotham FC. Though Washington wrestled control of the match on multiple occasions, two goals in five minutes from World Cup winner Esther González sealed second consecutive L.

Three takeaways

  • Midfield control. The match began with the Spirit facing an onslaught from Gotham, aided in large part due to the Spirit’s inability to keep possession. This was solved twice, once at the half hour mark, and again after halftime, but then another problem arose…
  • Chance creation. Though the Spirit began recycling possession along their backline to maintain possession and try to construct attacks, they struggled with the cohesion required to break Gotham’s sophisticated press. The result was a poor 68% pass completion percentage, and even more worrying, just 61 passes completed in the opposition half. This led to a total of just two shots off target, two on target, and four blocked.
  • Stylistic concerns. It’s tough to tell whether this point of the season is forcing the Spirit to lean into a more cautious approach or if this is the intended style of play, but some real problems have begun to show. Midfielders are struggling to connect passes, which is leading to chance creation becoming reliant on 1v1 play. In addition, the lack of goal threat (plus actual goals) is allowing teams to grow more confident in the way they attack the Spirit. In fact, the Spirit haven’t kept a clean sheet since May 13.

Match recap

To begin the game, the Spirit’s gameplan appeared to call for putting pressure on Gotham deep and hitting on the counter, and could explain why Parsons opted for the speedier Camryn Biegalski over Ouley Sarr. The downside was not being able to possess the ball for any length of time, which fed into Gotham’s press and put the Spirit under a lot of pressure early.

Twenty-two minutes in, Rodman won the ball in the defensive half and sprung away from Midge Purce to clip a lofted ball into Ashley Hatch’s path. Unfortunately, Gotham are doing a good job of bracketing Hatch and are able to block her pursuit of the ball.

An Aubrey Kingsbury tactical time out right ankle tweak a half hour in gave the Spirit a chance to get to the sideline and go over some details with Mark Parsons. In the ten minutes after, the Spirit attempted to hang onto the ball more by recycling the ball along the backline.

Good organization from Gotham plugged some gaps, but Sanchez nearly found Hatch with an improvised flick but it spins a bit too laterally and away from Hatch. The last real chance of the half was a chance worked by Rodman and Sanchez, where Rodman did a turn and nutmeg on Nighswonger before Sanchez picked up the ball and fed it back to Rodman. She broke into the box and held Krieger off, sending a low powerful shot toward the far side of the goal but Haught just got down quick enough to block the shot.

Halftime came with the match tied 0-0, with the Spirit having weathered an opening wave from Gotham before turning the tide after the half hour mark.

Ouleymata Sarr entered the match for Biegalski at halftime, and links up with Rodman on the right to manufacture a shot that doesn’t curl into the far post but flies wide.

The Spirit dominate possession in the second half and look like it’s only a matter of time until they picked the lock. Instead, Esther González got her first NWSL goal after some uncharacteristic bumbling of the ball in the box. Esther reacted quickest and buried it at close range beyond Kingsbury.

Then things got worse as González made it brace minutes later. Lynn Williams got free down the right side of the defense and slid a ball into the box that finds González between the CBs and she buries the shot.

A half that seemed like it had turned in the Spirit’s favor was suddenly turned upside down with two goals in quick succession. It’s particularly brutal because the Spirit seemed to be finding their passing range. If one goal changes games, then two changes everything.

The match ended with those two goals being the difference and the Spirit’s winless drought extends to seven games. It’s a bad time to have a bad time, but it’s happening and we hate it.

Box Score

NWSL Regular Season –  Game 19

Washington Spirit – 0

Gotham FC – 2 (González 65′, 70′)


Washington Spirit (4231): Kingsbury; Carle, Staab, McKeown, Butel; Metayer (Bailey 83′), Sullivan; Biegalski (Sarr 46′), Sanchez (Feist 83′), Rodman; Hatch

Gotham (433): Haught; Nighswonger, Krieger, López (Jean 82′), Bruninha (Freeman 90+2′); Sheehan, Martin, Ryan (Stengel 90+2′); Williams, González, Purce (Farrelly 78′)

Misconduct Summary

Spirit: Rodman 60′

Gotham: Nighswonger 15′, González 60′, Farrelly 90+6′

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David Rusk

Thanks for the excellent recap, Andre. It was an aggravating match to watch. Gotham looked like a much better organized team than the Spirit. Maybe I should say better coached. With all the Spirit’s top end talent, they just haven’t put it together all season.

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