The Washington Spirit’s home unbeaten streak at the Maryland SoccerPlex here in Germantown remains intact this 2015 season, but Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with the Western New York Flash felt more like a loss than a draw to most of the over 4,000 fans at the Plex.
By giving up a goal in the final minute of regulation, the Spirit let two very important points slip out their grasp. And for the second game in a row, the Spirit dominated play but did not come away from the game with the result that they needed.
The Spirit, who were coming off a short rest and travel after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Boston, looked tired in the first half. The Spirit got a first-half goal from Diana Matheson in the 16th minute. Ali Krieger fed a pass to Crystal Dunn down the flank. Dunn switched fields to blow past two Flash defenders Dunn’s shot was stopped by goalkeeper Chantel Jones, but a juicy rebound allowed Diana Matheson to tap the ball in the back of the net. It was Matheson second goal in as many games to give the Spirit the 1-0 lead.
The Spirit had another chance about half-way through the first, as Christine Nairn dribbled the ball through midfield, looked up to find Flash goalie Jones upfield. Nairn rocketed a 38-yard shot past Jones, which looked to be heading for the upper-90 corner of the goal, but just cracked off the right-elbow of the goal.
Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris came up big in the 38th minute punching a ball up over the crossbar to keep the Flash scoreless. The Flash had another goal robbed from them on the ensuing corner kick as a Flash player headed the ball which seemed destined for the back of the near the far post, but instead would find the chest of Christine Nairn who was able to knock it clear of the goal.
In the second half, the Spirit seemed to wake up and clearly dominated play, except for one breakdown in the 90th minute that lead to the equalizer. The Spirit had their first dangerous goal scoring opportunity in the second half in the 67th minute off a corner taken from Nairn. Nairn’s corner found Francisca Ordega, who headed the ball into the low corner, but Jones made a point-blank save to keep the ball from going into the back of the net.
In the 90th minute, the Flash scored Harris saved a shot but the loose ball fell to Lynn Williams, who was able to put it in to tie the game. The game provided nine intense minutes of stoppage time and a couple more opportunities for the Spirit. Dunn and Krieger provided numerous through balls to each other, but the scoreline remained at 1-1 at the final whistle.
The draw really hurt the Spirit, while they picked up one point, they fall to a precarious fourth place in the standings and must play on the road, on short rest again this Sunday against the second-place Chicago Red Stars. The game is a make-up after it was postponed due to weather earlier this season.
The Spirit is 7-5-4 with 25 points, just three points ahead of the surging Portland Thorns FC. The Spirit’s final four games are against teams that are in the top half of the standings. Each team is either ahead of the Spirit in the standings (Chicago, Kansas City, and Seattle) or within three points of the Spirit (Portland).
Wednesday night’s draw against the seventh place Flash and Saturday night’s loss to the ninth place Boston Breakers were not what the Spirit needed if they want to remain in the hunt.
Top: Diana Matheson (8) fights for a ball against Western New York defender Brittany Taylor (13). Matheson scored the Spirit goal off a rebound in the 16th minute.
Next: Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (1) came up big in the 38th minute punching a ball up over the crossbar.
Next: Spirit forward Franny Odega (14) had numerous chances in the second half but could not find a way to get the ball into the goal.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.