After sitting along in the top spot in the National Women’s Soccer League for the first five weeks of the season, the Washington Spirit are suddenly finding less and less separation between themselves and the rest of the league.
The Spirit suffered their first loss of the season on the West Coast Saturday night as they fell to the Portland Thorns FC 4-1. While the Spirit remain at the top of the leaderboard, they now share the top spot with the Chicago Red Stars, who defeated the Seattle Reign 2-1 Sunday evening.
The Spirit and Red Stars are tied at 13 points. However, the Portland victory earns them three points and puts them just one point behind the leaders at 12 points. The Thorns share the second spot with NWSL expansion team the Orlando Pride, who earned three points with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dash on Saturday night.
On Saturday, the Spirit and the Thorns met in a rematch of a hotly contested 0-0 draw which had taken place just two weeks before at the Maryland SoccerPlex on May 7. Joanna Lohman’s header in the 55th minute was the sole Spirit goal. It is the second straight week that Lohman had a header which was the Spirit’s only goal.
The Thorns four goals came from Meg Morris, Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, and an own goal. The first goal for the Thorns came in the 27th minute when Thorns captain and midfielder Tobin Heath set up for a corner kick. She sent the ball to the head of Lindsey Horan in the penalty box. Less than five minutes later the Thorns doubled the advantage when Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé’s attempted clearance deflected off Spirit defender Alyssa Kleiner and back into the Spirit goal.
In the last seconds of first half stoppage time, Heath earned the Thorns its third goal of the match to leave them with a 3-0 lead. Heath received a ball at her feet from Christine Sinclair and chipped Labbé, who came off of her line to block the ball. Heath chased down the ball and tapped it into the net.
In the 55th minute, the Spirit finally tallied a goal when Spirit forward Crystal Dunn sent a beautiful cross into the box after battling Klingenberg on the right side. Joanna Lohman maneuvered away from her defender and headed Dunn’s cross beyond Thorns keeper Adrianna Franch.
In the 78th minute, a miscommunication in the Spirit’s midfield allowed Thorns midfielder, Meg Morris, to capitalize on a misplayed pass just outside the Spirit penalty box. Morris pounced on the errant ball, drove forward and placed a well struck shot beyond the outstretched arms of Labbé to score the Thorn’s final goal of the match.
The Spirit remain on the road for the next two weeks playing rematches with both the Houston Dash and Boston Breakers before returning Germantown to play the Orlando Pride, and former Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and superstar Alex Morgan. The Spirit will host Orlando at the SoccerPlex on June 18 at 7:00 pm.
File Photo by Germantown Pulse of the May 7 game between the Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns FC.