The Washington Spirit fell 2-0 on the road to Utah Royals FC on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Royals are formerly the FCKC based in Kansas City are playing in their first season in the NWSL.
Utah took an early lead on a seventh minute strike by U.S. international Kelley O’Hara, assisted by Amy Rodriguez. After receiving a feed on a run through the center of the Spirit box, O’Hara finished off the play with a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net.
The remainder of the first half was a defensive struggle, as only one more shot on target was recorded during the final 37 minutes. O’Hara managed a close range attempt from a tough angle in the left side of the Spirit box, but Aubrey Bledsoe was there to knock it away for her first save of the night.
After trailing 1-0 at halftime, Washington found some early momentum in the second half, when U.S. international forward Mallory Pugh found space in the middle of the field, linking up with midfielder Andi Sullivan in the final third. Sullivan played a ball in to forward Ashley Hatch at the top of the box, and her shot finished just wide to the left.
However, Royals FC midfielder Diana Matheson, a former Spirit player, added to the lead in the 66th minute, pushing the margin to 2-0. Matheson won a loose ball outside the box with a sliding effort, and finishing with a chip shot into an empty net as Bledsoe charged out to cut off the play.
Washington continued to push, nearly finding the 70th minute, when Hatch created space in the box and fired another shot, but again sent it just wide of the left post.
Sullivan found a chance to convert for the Spirit in the 82nd minute when she tried a header from in front of the right post, but it sailed off target.
Ordega notched the Spirit’s lone shot on target in the 90th minute, firing a shot from the right side of the box, but Royals FC goalkeeper Abby Smith was there for the save.
Washington will finish off its two-game stretch away from home next Saturday against the league-leading North Carolina Courage. The Spirit will return to the Maryland Soccer for their next home game on Saturday, May 19 against Portland Thorns FC.
Caption: Spirit forward and U.S. international forward Mallory Pugh during a recent Washington Spirit home game.
Photo by Germantown Pulse.