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Spirit Fall to Portland as Local Stars Return to MoCo

The Washington Spirit fell to the visiting Portland Thorns 1-0 Saturday night in front of 3,284 fans at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

A 68th minute strike from Thorns substitute Ellie Carpenter was the difference in an otherwise statistically even contest. Carpenter’s goal was assisted by Tobin Heath, who crossed the ball from the right side which skipped across the box to Carpenter who was able to score the tap in from just inside the six-yard box.

Portland improved to 3-3-3 (12 points) on the season as Washington fell to 1-5-2 (5 points).

Washington led the contest with 14 shots and five corner kicks. The Spirit out-possessed the Thorns by a slim 50.8 percent - 40.2 percent margin.

Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe recorded four saves on the evening. Her counterpart, Northwest High School alum, Britt Eckerstrom returned to make her first professional start in her hometown, and also recorded four saves on four Spirit shots on goal.

Eckerstrom, was drafted by the now defunct Western New York Flash in January of 2016 after leading Penn State University to a NCAA Women’s National Championship in 2015, grew up playing on the fields around at the stadium field at the Maryland SoccerPlex with the old Seneca Soccer Association, which has since been folded into Maryland Rush Montgomery. As she got older and increased her skills, she played travel soccer with Frederick Soccer Club with the Washington Area Girls Soccer League.

Last season, the Western New York relocated to North Carolina and shortly thereafter Eckerstrom was traded to the Portland Thorns. She took over as the starting goaltender for Portland this season when the Thorns regular starter Adrianna Franch went was injured in April. Franch is dealing with a meniscus tear in her knee.

There were two players making a homecoming of sorts at the SoccerPlex on Saturday night. Besides Eckerstrom, Portland midfielder Midge Purce, grew up in Olney and played soccer at Good Counsel before playing at Harvard University. She was the ninth pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft by the Boston Breakers and was allocated to Portland after the Boston team folded at the beginning of this season.

The Spirit’s Mallory Pugh nearly put Washington on the board in the 20th minute when she gained possession of the ball near midfield and took the ball solo to the box facing three Thorns defenders when she was unable to muster enough on her off balanced shot.

In the 39th minute, Pugh nearly scored again when her free kick from just outside the 18-yard box curled wide.

In the 55th minute, Ashley Hatch’s contested strike inside the box went just wide to the right in her best opportunity of the evening. She led the team with five total shots in the contest.

The final ten minutes of the contest featured a barrage by the Spirit attempting to find an equalizer. The best opportunity came from substitute Mallory Eubanks who in stoppage time was able to cleanly strike a ball just outside the 18-yard box, which was saved by Thorns keeper Eckerstrom.

Washington’s back four of Caprice Dydasco, Whitney Church, Rebecca Quinn and Taylor Smith all played the full 90 minutes in the contest.

The Spirit returns to NWSL action Wednesday, May 23 at the Maryland Soccerplex against Sky Blue FC. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in the weeknight contest.


Top: The Spirit’s Ashley Hatch (33) tackles Portland’s Emily Mengles (4) during Saturday night’s game at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

The Spirit lost the game 1-0 after Portland's Elle Carpenter scored in the 68th minute.

Next: Germantown native Britt Eckerstrom (33) had four saves and a clean sheet in her first professional start in her hometown.

Next: Spirt goalkeep