WASHINGTON – When Chloe Logarzo fired a right-footed shot into the goal net at the 90th minute on Sept. 14, an eruption of cheers and celebrations would consume the Washington Spirit sidelines. Players hugged each other, thinking that goal was enough for the victory.
Seven minutes later, the Spirit players were no longer smiling. Instead, with their limited playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the players felt disappointed in not completing the victory.
“We had a job to do, and we did that job, but we let it slip again,” Washington striker Mallory Pugh said. “It kind of sucks; I feel like this is almost worse than a loss emotionally because we fought so hard.”
In their second home game in Washington, D.C. in front of 17,418 fans at Audi Field, Reign FC and the Spirit played a 2-2 draw following substitute Ifeoma Onumonu scoring the game-tying goal in the 92nd minute.
The result keeps the Spirit (7-7-5, 26 points) in slim contention for the fourth and final spot in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Playoffs. Meanwhile, the Reign (8-5-7), based out of Tacoma, Washington, is now tied with Utah Royals FC with 31 points for the final playoff spot.
“After giving up the goal in the 90th minute, I am happy to draw the game,” Reign Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “It was a game of two halves; I felt for the first 30-35 minutes, we controlled the game, and we created good scoring opportunities, but we got punished on the other side. I am just glad we were able to get back as soon as we did.”
The game was filled with fast-paced drama throughout the proceedings as both teams attacked each other’s goal at will. While all the attention leading up the match was on U.S. Women’s National Team player and Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe, her fellow teammate Allie Long took the spotlight early. She took advantage of a Washington defensive error five minutes into the contest and attempted an elevated shot towards the goal. Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe got a fingertip on the ball before it hit the crossbar.
Despite the Reign’s early ball-dominance in the first 25 minutes, it would be Washington who would strike first. After a reset by Bledsoe, Pugh ran to the edge of the end line before launching a cross into Reign territory. Striker Ashley Hatch whipped a glancing header into the top right corner of the net to give the home side a one-goal advantage.
The lead did not last long though as striker Bethany Baker collected a loose ball off an attempted clearance by Bledsoe and quickly fired the tying goal in the 35th minute. Despite surrendering the lead, the Spirit continued its offensive assault and attempted more shots on goal including another Hatch header off a Crystal Thomas cross. That shot, however, sailed wide left of the goal post.
Rapinoe, known for her on- and off-the-field exploits during this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup for the U.S., exploded out of the tunnel to warm-up during halftime. The 34-year-old tested Bledsoe early with a 30-yard missile towards goal. The Spirit goalkeeper held on to the ball to make a tough save.
Meanwhile, the Spirit made a sub of its own to add more firepower on its attack, bringing on Jamaican striker Cheyna Matthews for Crystal Thomas. Both she and Hatch led a fast two-on-two counterattack the length of the field that was quickly thwarted by Murphy.
The Spirit’s attack soon included Pugh as Matthews sent a quick pass to her into the Reign’s penalty area on another counterattack. The 21-year-old striker attempted to strike a low shot with her left foot, but it went out of bounds, hitting the side netting.
Her missed opportunity was forgotten moments later as Hatch snuck in a cross past two defenders to Logarzo to score her first goal of the season. Burke ran out on the field with a fist-pump celebration as the Spirit believed that they earned the win.
However, two minutes later, Onumonu outran the Spirit backline to retrieve a Jodie Taylor pass and released a low shot to beat Bledsoe to tie the game.
“We have a very mentally tough team,” Rapinoe said. “We have always prided ourselves with and that we have goals in us and creating a lot of chances during the game… When (Logarzo’s) goal went in, we had a lot of time left with a lot of stoppage time so staying focus and focusing to the game plan and keep (attacking) at them.”
The Spirit has four games remaining in their season, including their next three happening on the road in seven days. To make the playoffs, they will need to win out their remaining schedule and receive a lot of help from other results to achieve a playoff berth. While they may have a mathematical chance, Burke said it would be best for the club to continue developing their style of play to be better for next season.
“We targeted the next three matches as a real mini-season for us in the hopes that we got nine points out of it,” Burke said. “This is the only home match in the stretch of three games. The next two away are going to be really big asks for us…We are building here; we are building for next year for a team that will compete for championships and regularly for the playoffs.”