GERMANTOWN – Their second preseason game did not go as well for the Washington Spirit as their first. Matched against an in-season FC Girondins de Bordeaux from Division 1 Féminine, the Spirit was not playing against an off-season college team as the French side took advantage of the home side, losing 3-1 on March 23.
The Spirit, who took down James Madison University 5-0 in their preseason opener, was looking to gather extra momentum by taking on a Bordeaux side that currently sits in third place in the French league.
“The second game is going to be a much bigger challenge for us,” Head Coach Richie Burke said before the game. “They’re a professional team from a very good league; they are going to be a little more cultured, a little bit more cerebral with better football IQ, we believe. We have prepared to take an extra step forward every match we have got and training has been geared up towards that.”
Preseason games are usually tune-ups for the regular seasons. But this was not the case between these two teams early on, despite Washington’s preseason form. The first half of the match looked like a battle for a league championship as both teams came out physically aggressive.
The physicality of the match opened the first door for the Spirit as striker Mallory Pugh struck a successful direct free kick would have provided the mental edge over the opposition. Unfortunately, goalkeeper Erin Nayler saved the shot, keeping Bordeaux in the match in the early going.
Washington continued the offensive pressure as midfielder Rose Lavelle had a chance to score for the Spirit on a breakaway opportunity in the 35th minute. As the Bordeaux defense players closed ranks, Lavelle passed the ball to striker Ashley Hatch, who delivered a high cross to a running Pugh.
The 20-year-old headed toward the goal but the ball caromed off the left goal point and landed directly in front of defender Chloe Bornes. The Bordeaux player was unable to react on time and knocked it into the net for an own goal, giving Washington a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
Following the halftime break, Bordeaux was the first to strike as Claire Lavogez was awarded a free kick for a foul by the Spirit’s Jordan DiBiasi against Ghantia Karchoni. Lavogez fired a bending ball from the corner of the penalty area into the back-right corner of the Spirit’s net to tie the game. Despite good positioning of the defensive wall by the Spirit, the French national’s striking shot was impossible to block.
Things did not get better for the Spirit as midfielder Viviane Asseyi was fouled inside the penalty area, awarding a penalty kick to the French side in the 79th minute. She read Aubrey Bledsoe’s inclination early and shot the ball directly to where she was standing as the Washington goalkeeper dove right, converting the PK and putting Bordeaux up 2-1.
Washington’s frequent substitutions did not help their rhythm while Bordeaux gained extra possession and shots on goal. Four of the Spirit’s substitutes were non-roster invitees who were able to hold Bordeaux scoreless for 11 minutes. All but one of the eligible substitutes got playing time in the second half. In the 91st minute, the scoreless run would end as Asseyi struck again for her second goal of the game and giving Bordeaux a comfortable win.
Despite the loss, the Spirit will look to continue building around a team mantra “winning is a habit.” Washington will take on the University of North Carolina on March 30 at the Evergreen Sports Complex in Leesburg, Virginia in their third preseason game. They open the regular season at home against Sky Blue FC on April 13.
“No matter who we play, we are going to try and score as many goals as possible,” defender Paige Nielsen said. “We are not going to allow goals; confidence and consistency is key to win this league and that is what we strive for.”