Lindsey (left) and Lohman (right) were the two goal-scorers on the evening, while Sanderson (center) contributed an assist
The Washington Spirit tried a new formation and started their top free agent signing for the first time. The result was their best game of the season, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome the Boston Breakers, and they had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
The usual starting formation had been a 4-2-3-1:
Ochs – Matheson – Wells
Roberts – Lindsey
Toulouse – Gayle – Huster – Krieger
For this match, and with free agent Candace Chapman able to play for the first time this season, it was a 4-4-2:
Ochs – McCarty
Wells – Lindsey – Roberts – Matheson
Gayle – Huster – Chapman – Krieger
Harris makes one of her several big plays early
It didn’t help in the early going, as Ashlyn Harris had to make three big plays to end Boston attacks. The most dangerous-looking one was in the sixth minute, as Heather O’Reilly was in one-on-one with a nice through ball but stumbled over it. Harris dove and grabbed the ball before HAO could get back to it.
The next fifteen minutes was almost all Spirit, though. Tiffany McCarty was in on goal in the 18th minute, but goalkeeper Ashley Phillips managed to knock the ball away before the two collided. In the 21st minute, Stephanie Ochs managed to get the ball and then herself past Cat Whitehill – something I’d seen Marta try to do and fail – but couldn’t reset in time to shoot.
The Breakers got their goal in the 24th minute against the run of play. O’Reilly sent in a long cross from the right past the far post, where Sydney Leroux headed it back the other way. Lianne Sanderson collected it and despite being double-teamed was able to turn and slide the ball back toward the middle to a totally unguarded Joanna Lohman, who had no problems putting the ball into the upper right netting past Harris.
Stephanie Ochs played up top instead of in the midfield for the first time
With the score 1-0 against them at halftime, the Spirit made two back line substitutions, one unsurprising, the other worrying, as Kika Toulouse came in for Chapman and Domenica Hodak came in for Ali Krieger. It’s not surprising that Chapman would be up for just 45 minutes in her return from injury, but Krieger doesn’t come out unless she’s hurting. However, we were assured after the match that it was nothing serious.
Despite losing arguable their two best defenders, Washington proceeded to play far and away its best soccer of the year for the next 45 minutes. Boston had zero shots on goal and zero corner kicks for the duration, while the Spirit by contrast managed four and six, respectively.
The equalizer came in the 51st minute when Diana Matheson intercepted a Julie King pass and brought it forward level with the top of the box before sending a square ball to her left. Lori Lindsey ran onto it, took it into the box, then fired a rocket that clanged into the upper left corner of the woodwork and in. It may well be the best goal of the NWSL season so far. Harris was asked after the match if she could have gotten to it, and she said, “I don’t think any goalkeeper’s gettin’ to that.”
Lindsey scores against Whitehill (photo courtesy of KazLovesPinoe)
Just a minute later, Breakers fans nearly had a seizure as Matheson brought a ball into the box and issued a low shot that Phillips dove for but couldn’t quite corral. It rolled past her and continued toward the end line, but Phillips had slowed it enough that she managed to recover and stop it before it went into the net.
Two minutes later, Matheson and Ochs combined to get the ball to Lindsey about 20 yards out, but her shot was just high. In the 58th minute, McCarty made a brilliant spin to get around King, but Ochs was offside on the through ball.
Boston had a few chances, but they were all stifled or went awry. In the 77th minute, Sydney Leroux seemed to be through the back line and running in all set to replay one of her goals from last week’s hat trick, but defender Robyn Gayle stayed with her and pushed her across the top of the box until Ingrid Wells came in and cleared the ball out. Seven minute later, O’Reilly drove for the end line on the left, then sent the ball across to Leroux in the box, but she skied it. Two minutes later, another dangerous-looking cross was just a little too deep for Leroux.
The Spirit had their last best chance in the 89th minute as Caroline Miller, a 71st minute substitution for McCarty, fired a long shot in from the left that Phillips had to leap to save.
Midfielder Diana Matheson has more goals than the rest of the team combined
Despite having played four of their five matches so far at home, the Spirit have yet to manage a win. Still, head coach Mike Jorden was pleased with his team’s performance. “I told ‘em, we deserve a win. We’ve been – I won’t say unlucky – but we’ve been so close in some games and made some mistakes that really cost us. So disappointed from that standpoint of where we’re sitting on three points. But the positive is we’re seeing good things in each game, and what I told them is if everybody performs, I think we’ll be a pretty good team, and we haven’t seen that day yet.”
And goalkeeper Harris – who’s not one to mince words – was also pleased. “I think in the second half today we did a great job. A few people had to go out, and the level of the team didn’t drop. I think that says a lot about who we are and what we’re about. A lot of those kids are young, and I don’t think they get enough respect in what they do. It’s not easy just being thrown in there.
“I’m really happy with us right now. I thought a lot of people stepped up. Collectively we stepped up. We weren’t good for fifteen minutes and then bad for ten. I think the last 45 we were all over them. I don’t think they had a shot.”
Offense remains the primary issue with the team, as they’ve scored a mere one goal per game, with only three of those coming in the run of play and only one from a forward. Midfielder Matheson has three goals – two from PKs – which is more than the entire rest of the team combined. Corner kicks appear to be a particular issue – they had eight this evening, none of which were even especially dangerous.
The Spirit were easily thwarted on all of their eight corner kicks
Washington heads out for three road matches next, playing Seattle on Thursday, Portland on Sunday, and Boston the following Saturday. They then have a somewhat bizarre three weeks off before their only home game in June, on the 15th against the Western New York Flash. (Head coach Jorden, incidentally, will not be traveling to the west coast with the team as he’s recovering from back surgery.)
Boston, meanwhile, also goes on the road against Kansas City next Saturday, then Washington, then to New Jersey the following weekend.
In other news, the Washington Spirit Reserves lost their opener, 2-1, to the New York Magic. In a game that due to lightning delays was pushed to 6 pm and out of the Soccerplex Stadium, the Reserves took a 1-0 lead in the 6th minute on a header by Ashley Herndon off a cross from Tiffany Brown. But the Magic scored in the 75th and 86th minutes on goals by Lorena Maggio and Brittany Pfaff to come out ahead.
Photos courtesy of Tony Quinn unless indicated otherwise.