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Spirit Fall to Dash 1-0 in Defensive Battle

At one point in Saturday’s NWSL game between the Washington Spirit and the Houston Dash, Spirit midfielder Tori Huster inadvertently headed a hard-kicked ball directly into the face of her teammate rookie Meggie Dougherty Howard who was a mere five feet from her. Both girls went down and eventually got back up. It was a microcosm of the Spirit’s 2017 campaign this far: Bad luck, injuries, and grit.

The Spirit lost the game to the Dash 1-0 on Kealia Ohai goal. However, the grit of team was apparent as the Spirit, who lost veteran midfielder Joanna Lohman for the rest of the year in the season opener two weeks, also played without three of the most important attacking players due to injury.

Two forwards, veteran Katie Stengel and second-year player Cheyna Williams, along with midfielder Kristie Mewis were all sidelined and unavailable after being injured last week. The injuries forced the Spirit to field a starting eleven that included every player with any sort of NWSL experience on the roster and 2017 first round draft pick Lindsay Agnew and a bench of four players who had with limited or no NWSL experience.

As a result, the Spirit were outshot by Houston 13-9 overall and had six shots on target to the Spirit’s one. Ohai’s goal came in the 28th minute, as the Dash captain went bursting down the left side of the field before settling and burying a shot into the far right corner of the net. Houston had a strong first half, controlling nearly 55 percent of the possession and racking up 204 total passes with 75 percent accuracy.

Washington turned things around in the second half, controlling nearly 63 percent of the possession and piling up 182 passes with a superior 74.2 percent accuracy rate. The defensive prowess of Spirit defenders Estelle Johnson, Shelina Zadorsky and Whitney Church was on full display, as they held the Dash to 57.4 percent