BOYDS — For the Washington Spirit (2-8-4), winless in the last 5 matches, it was another swing and a miss, this time against the Orlando Pride (6-3-4), who defeated the Spirit 1-0.
Early in the match, the 11th minute, the Pride shocked the Spirit, everyone in the stadium, and those watching on TV, with a half-pitch-long shot that sailed untouched into the back of the net. Pride defender Alanna Kennedy was the one with the heavy boot to score the goal. Kennedy took advantage of the entire Spirit defense crowding the midfield line with keeper Bledsoe high out of her box. Bledsoe made a superhuman attempt to stop the shot but it was an inch or so too high for her. For the Pride, the goal marked why soccer is called the beautiful game.
That surprise long-distance goal would be the only goal of the match, enough to bring the Pride three additional points in the standings and rob the Spirit of any additional points. The Pride now stand at second place in the National Women’s Soccer League point rankings. They are climbing the ladder with their sixth straight win on the road.
The Pride came to the pitch with a fully-loaded starting lineup and the bench strength to back it up, but not the Spirit.
The Spirit’s starting lineup was something new from Coach Gabarra, who reassigned starting midfielder Joanna Lohman to left front forward. Playing in the match for the Pride were star starters Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, and Marta. Missing from the match for the Spirit were forward Mallory Pugh, forward Estefania Banini, and forward Rose Lavelle.
Such a change in the lineup looked to be forced by the lack of available players for the Spirit: Mallory Eubanks was out with a right ankle sprain, Cali Farquharson with a left tibial stress injury, Mallory Pugh with a right PCL sprain, Arielle Ship, right ACL recovery, Havana Solaun, left chondral avulsion, and Cheyna Williams was present at the game sporting a baby bump.
All in all, it added up to six starters for the Spirit unavailable for this match and likely unavailable for some time to come. The only other team with nearly as many people on the injury list is the North Carolina Courage with five.
Ten games are left in the season for the Spirit. To qualify for postseason play, they have to be in at least fourth place. Last week, nine points separated second place from ninth place, where the Spirit currently sit. This week, it is 12 points that separate second place from ninth. Nine points separate third place from ninth now. Mathematically, the Spirit could make the playoffs – if they start winning. It will be a very rough pull, all uphill for the Spirit to make the playoffs at this point in the season.
The next home game for the Spirit will be on July 21 at 7:00 p.m. at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds. Starting this coming Saturday they are on a three-week road tour of matches, beginning with the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois on Sunday, July 1 at 6:00 p.m. Audi Field, the new home of Major League Soccer team DC United, will host the Spirit when they play the Portland Thorns on Saturday, Aug. 25 at 7:00 p.m., the first women’s professional soccer match to be played there.