After the match, the Spirit take a lap to thank their very patient fans
The Washington Spirit did not go out with quite the bang they were hoping for, after two straight wins giving up a late goal to settle for a 1-1 draw with the playoff-bound Sky Blue FC. Still, they went 2-0-1 in their last three matches. And the team’s makeshift defense gave up just two goals in their last four matches, holding the opposition scoreless for 294 consecutive minutes.
The main foe this week, though, seemed to be the assistant referee’s flag, as they were called twelve times for offside – all of which, it should be said, seemed to be legitimate. Forward Conny Pohlers was off so frequently in the first half that one began to wonder if the rules were different in Germany.
Washington finally took the lead in the 40th minute. Ali Krieger brought the ball forward down the right, then sent it to Lupita Worbis near the right top corner of the box. Worbis rolled the ball to Stephanie Ochs, who had some space down the middle, and Ochs – who’d spent most of the week practicing finishing with her left foot – lofted the ball into the upper left corner with, yes, her left foot. It was her first goal of the season and only the fourth by any Spirit forward. Said Ochs after the match, “I saw Lupita with the ball, and I came back off for it, in that space, and she played a perfect ball, and just opened up and placed it.”
That characteristic lack of productivity would catch them, as in the 83rd minute Sky Blue earned a corner kick that Monica Ocampo sent into traffic. Taylor Lytle pounced on the ball and sent it in to even the score.
It was a disappointing finish to a disappointing season, but head coach Mark Parsons saw some positives even in the disappointment, at least in the attitude of the players. “Very pleasing to get two wins before this game, and disappointing to only get a point. I think that kind of sums up the progress that we’ve made, the fact that all the players, I mean Lori Lindsey, you could see her frustration, she can’t believe that we’ve let them sneak back into the game.”
Post-game interviews had a common set of themes:
All the players expressed their appreciation for the fan support the team had received. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who as well gave an eloquent and moving speech after the game thanking the fans: “And just like you see tonight the fans are incredible. And the support around this team with such a bad season is pretty impressive, that they continue to come out and they continue to chant and spend money and support us. And we just can’t thank them enough for what they do.”
Ashlyn Harris gives a post-game speech thanking the fans for their support
All the players talked about how Parsons had given a lift to the team when he took over. Defender Ali Krieger: “When Mark stepped into that position, we had someone who was a leader for us and who could organize and manage us really well. And you could tell by the last three games that we were one of the best-organized teams in the league, and that we could keep up. It’s unfortunate that it was that late, but we learned, we persevered, and I think now we’re a little bit more positive going into our time off, into next season.”
There was repeated talk about how tough the season had been but how they bonded with their teammates as a result. Ochs: “Obviously, it’s been a tough season for us, like in the beginning. But I think it helped us all grow as people and as players. I mean, we all came together and got so close as a team. And now we’re all like a family. We’re all best friends because of everything we’ve gone through, and I think it’s just made us better people.”
And all the players we specifically asked about returning said they hoped to be back next year. Harris again: “Of course. I mean, this is my home now. The Spirit is where my loyalty is.”
Harris and Krieger are off to finish the year in Sweden. Lori Lindsey said she’s going to Australia. Ochs is on the verge of signing with someone, but she couldn’t tell us who because it’s not official yet.
The post-game interviews were quite good, particularly the ones with Harris and Krieger. You can check them out at:
And I’ll be doing a full season recap in the next few days.