In a game in which rivalries are born, the Washington Spirit lost to the Hope Solo and the Seattle Reign FC 2-1 on Saturday marking the first time the Spirit have lost a home game all season.
Unfortunately, it may have come in the biggest spot of the season as the Spirit were playing for a possible home playoff game. The loss forces a playoff rematch of the tightly contested, and often testy game between the Spirit and Seattle Reign, this Sunday at 9:30 pm ET on Sunday night.
Seattle started the scoring fairly early as the Reign converted the first goal in the 15th minute. A Spirit defender headed a well-struck ball out of the goalmouth but right to the foot of Seattle’s Jessica Fishlock outside the eighteen. She volleyed a shot into the top right corner, giving Seattle a 1-0 lead.
The Reign would strike again in the 23rd minute, as Megan Rapinoe would bring the ball in from the right, take few touches and bomb a shot to the top left corner of the goal, from well outside the eighteen to expand the lead to 2-0.
The Spirit battled back as Diana Matheson drove into the top corner of the Reign box before being fouled by Kendall Fletcher in the 37th minute. Matheson stepped up to take the kick, sent Seattle goalkeeper Hope Solo the wrong way and placed her shot in the upper right corner of the net to make the score 2-1.
Before the first half concluded, the Spirit’s Franny Ordega, Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn and Christine Nairn built up possession in the midfield, with Nairn slotting a ball to Dunn, but her shot was tipped over the bar by Solo.
Teams came out after the break with no subs, as the Spirit continued to battle for the equalizing goal. In the 63rd minute, Ordega had a close shot on goal, but the ball went just wide of goal.
In the last twenty minutes of the second half, the game resulted in many physical battles. Spirit sub Haley Raso was knocked into by Solo. While both players lay on the ground with minor injuries, Seattle’s Fishlock began screaming in Raso’s face and had to be almost be restrained by her teammates. Raso ended up getting a yellow card on the play.
The Spirit had a free kick opportunity in the 77th minute, Nairn found Megan Oyster’s head, but it went over the net and the game ended 2-1.
The loss sets up a rematch of these same two teams next week in Seattle in the first round of the NWSL playoffs. This marks the second straight year the Spirit have made the playoffs under Head Coach and General Manager Mark Parsons. The semi-final match will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 on Sept. 13 at 9:30 ET.
The NWSL also announced this week that the Spirit’s Crystal Dunn is the winner of the 2015 NWSL Golden Boot, which is awarded to the play with the most goals during the season.
Dunn, 23, led the NWSL in scoring this year with 15 goals in 20 games to go along with three assists to become the youngest winner of the award, ahead of 2014 winner Seattle Reign midfielder Kim Little and 2013 winner Lauren Holiday.
The North Carolina University product fell one goal shy of matching Little’s NWSL single-season record of 16 goals (in a 24-game season) in 2014. However, Dunn’s 0.75 goals-per-team-game is a new league record.
The New Hyde Park, NY native scored six game-winning goals during the 2015 campaign. She scored against seven of the eight other teams in the league, with the last-place Boston Breakers the only team against which Dunn did not find the back of the net. Her four goals against Portland Thorns FC and the Houston Dash were the most Dunn scored against any single opponent. Dunn was voted the NWSL Player of the Week six times this season – another NWSL record.
Top: The Seattle Reign’s Megan Rapino’s (15) goal in the 23rd minute handed the Washington Spirit their first home loss of the season, 2-1.
Next: Seattle’s goalkeeper Hope Solo (1) punches away a Christine Nairn corner kick.
Next: The Spirit’s goal came when Diana Matheson (8) scored on a penalty kick in the first half.
Next: This week, Washington Spirit’s Crystal Dunn (19) was awarded the 2015 NWSL Golden Boot award for the player with the most regular-season goals.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.