Spirit Defeat Defending Champs in Home Opener
The Washington Spirit, Germantown’s home town professional sports franchise, opened their home season in glorious style in front of over 4,100 fans at the Maryland SoccerPlex last Saturday night with a 3-1 defeat of defending NWLS champs FC Kansas City. The victory pulls the Spirit even at 1-1 on the season.
The game winning goal came early in the second half as the Spirit’s Cyrstal Dunn knocked home a pass from Christine Nairn to give the Spirit the lead in the first minute of the second half.
FC Kansas City got the scoring started on a strike in the sixth minute as FCKC’s Lauren Holiday moved the ball to Heather O’Reilly, who was able to loft a shot over the Spirit’s goalkeeper, Ashlyn Harris.
Kansas City kept Harris very busy in the first half forcing her to make at four or five world-class saves to keep the Spirit in the game.
“There were enough saves in that performance that would make up any other goalkeeper’s season highlight reel,” Spirit Head Coach Mark Parsons told reporters after the game. “That first half performance, when we were basically watching Kansas City do what they do -- and they are one of the best on the planet at moving the ball -- she pulled us out of trouble five or six times.”
The Spirit would get on the scoreboard for the first time this young season nine minutes into the first half as midfielder Christine Nairn pounded the ball from outside the penalty box past FCKC goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
The second half began very well for the Spirit as Crystal Dunn stole the ball and played it forward to Laura del Rio. Moving toward the goal, Del Rio passed the ball back to Dunn who ran on to it and knocked the ball into the back of the net in the 46th minute.
Dunn’s goal inspired the Spirit defenders to step up and maintain the lead and FCKC did not see as many opportunities to score in the second half
”In the second half, it started with the back four and Ashlyn,” said Parsons of his defenders. “I thought our back four were exceptional – all of them – I am only picking out one because she is young. Anyone watching that second half saw that Megan Oyster had Amy Rodriguez in her back pocket. That performance from her was out of this world. And this is just the beginning for her.
In the 60th minute, Coach Mark Parsons substituted Francisca Ordega for Estefania Banini. Ordega, a Nigerian striker who joined the team on April 14, after signing on March 24, had an immediate impact.
Ordega, who made her NWSL debut, gave FCKC and USWNT team stalwart Becky Sauerbrunn fits in the offensive zone. Ordega’s speed and ability to control the ball in tight quarters led to three close scoring chances for the Spirit.
In the 65th minute FCKC’s Amy LePeilbet fouled Chrystal Dunn to give the Spirit a free kick at the top of the box. Christine Nairn would pound home her second goal of the night, firing the ball over Barnhart’s head and down into the goal off the crossbar.
“The biggest thing,” said Coach Mark Parsons, “was that training this week was very good. The energy, the focus, the concentration from every single player. We had a great feeling about training because everyone, no matter what their role was, training was high class. That was a team performance as a result of the high class training environment.”
The Spirit will travel to New Jersey on Sunday, April 26 to play Sky Blue FC at 6:00 pm. The match will be streamed at www.youtube.com/NWSL. The Spirit will return home to the SoccerPlex in Germantown on May 16 at 7:00 pm where they will face Sky Blue FC.
Top: Spirit midfielder Christine Nairn (7) pulls away from FCKC player Jen Buczkowski (6). Nairn would score two goals in the Spirit’s home opener.
Next: Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (1) stops a point blank shot from FCKC and USWNT forward Amy Rodriguez (8). Harris kept the Spirit in the game in the first half showing why she is on the USWNT.
Next: Cristine Nairn (7) celebrates by pointing into the stands after her first goal to tie the score at 1-1.
Next: Newly signed Spirit striker Francisco Ordega (14) works the ball along the sideline as defenders Liz Bogus (5) and Liegh Ann Robinson (13) attempt to take the ball.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.