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Spirit Fall to Utah Royals FC 1-0 in First Road Test of Season

The Washington Spirit fell 1-0 to Utah Royals FC after a nail-biting 90 minutes in Sandy, Utah Saturday night. The Spirit moved to 1-0-1 through two games of the 2019 NWSL season.

Utah nearly jumped ahead in the 3rd minute after a curler from Royals FC forward Christen Press cleared the crossbar. Utah’s aggressive start paid off soon after as the Royals found themselves up 1-0 in the 10th minute following a diagonal run from Press, who found Lo’eau Labonta on the side of the box who slotted her finish home.

The Spirit’s first chance to equalize came in the 15th minute from forward Mallory Pugh, who made a fast-paced run down the right flank and played a cross into the box that just missed the Spirit forwards inside the box. The ball was won back on the left and sent back in, but the chance flew just over striker Ashley Hatch’s head.

Washington created another close chance in the 41st minute when Australian-national team player, midfielder Amy Harrison played Pugh into space at the top of the box, but Pugh’s well-hit shot was saved by Nicole Barnhart.

The Spirit headed into halftime down, but not out. Possession between the two sides was close, with the Spirit owning 53 percent of the ball after 45 minutes. The Spirit were able to string together passes in the midfield, finishing the half with a pass accuracy of 84 percent.

The Spirit came out of the locker room firing, as midfielder Andi Sullivan collected the ball in an advanced position and made a smooth turn past a defender, she rifled a shot with her left foot, but it screamed just wide of the post. Midfielder Rose Lavelle had a great chance to equalize after the Spirit earned a free-kick just outside the box in the 77th minute. Lavelle struck the dead ball sweetly, but it whistled over the crossbar.

Washington’s best chance to equalize on the night came in the 84th minute after Lavelle found Pugh running into space inside the box. Pugh dribbled towards goal, but her left-footed shot was ultimately blocked by Barnhart.

The Spirit will have a week off to reset before returning home to the Maryland SoccerPlex for their next game where they will take on Reign FC on Saturday, May 4 for Star Wars Night. Kick-off is set for 7:00 pm, with gate D and the Fan Zone opening for all ticket holding fans at 5:30 pm and Gate A opening at 6:00 pm.