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Recap: Washington Spirit can’t find an equalizer and fall to Gotham FC 1-0

Well, that was all rather annoying

NWSL: Washington Spirit at NJ/NY Gotham FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

An early flourish from NJ/NY Gotham FC gave them a goal to cling onto as they defeat the Washington Spirit 1-0. Gotham, the much fresher team, used that to their advantage as they pressed the Spirit early and often to pin them back and prevent buildup play. Adjustments at halftime turned the match in the Spirit’s favor, but without Andi Sullivan and Ashley Sanchez, both withdrawn at halftime after absorbing rough challenges, the equalizer never came.

Despite the persistent pressure in the opening ten minutes, goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury got some important touches to keep the score level. Both center backs, Emily Sonnett and Sam Staab, made critical blocks as well as the Spirit attempted to absorb the pressure without conceding.

Once the match settled down the Spirit were allotted time on the ball but not enough in midfield to pick through. Then, in the twentieth minute the hosts got the breakthrough.

They invited the Spirit onto them then passed around the high press to sent Ify Onumonu sprinting down the wing. Onumonu hit a first time cross across the box that Kingsbury couldn’t reach and was touched across the line by Midge Purce.

After the goal Kris Ward shifted personnel. Julia Rodda went from midfield to left back which pushed Anna Heilferty up the the wing and allowed Sanchez to slide into midfield. The shifts resulted in the Spirit being able to build play and be more dangerous in the final third. A cut out Heilferty cross fell to Sanchez at the top of the box but her curling shot flew wide.

The changes helped the Spirit settle and look more like themselves, however, down a goal they need to push higher and take risks, despite speedy forwards like Onumonu and Purce, who burned them once for the goal.

Just before the end of the first half Bayley Feist sent Ashley Hatch behind the defense but her low shot towards the bottom far corner was push aside by the hand of Michelle Betos. The keeper was also able to smother it before Feist could make clean contact with a followup shot, bringing the half to an end with Gotham’s goal remaining the difference between the sides.

After halftime, both Andi Sullivan and Ashley Sanchez were substituted. It’s slightly worrying because both players were down after rough challenges. Amber Brooks and Taylor Aylmer took their place.

At the hour mark the score remained 0-1 despite the Spirit manufacturing a couple half chances, including one that required a terrific scrambling save from Betos off the head of Heilferty.

In the 67th minute the Spirit were able to work out another quality chance. A knockdown in the area fell to Taylor Aylmer who did well with her first touch to create space, but her shot was wayward in the end. The move kicked off a period of play in which the Spirit camped out in Gotham’s half as they tried to craft an equalizer.

Tactical tweaks made at halftime have given the Spirit a lot more of the ball and helped unsettle Gotham’s defense. However, without Rodman and Sanchez, the final ball was hard to come by.

The Spirit entered six minutes of stoppage time still needing to find a goal to rescue a point. However, the goal wouldn’t come despite some desperate launches toward the penalty area and the Spirit dominating possession in the final twenty or so minutes. The streak of four consecutive draws is snapped, but the bad way, with the Spirit falling 1-0 to Gotham away.

Perhaps most brutally, the Spirit will be back in action midweek as they travel to Chicago to face the Red Stars, again.


Box Score

NWSL Regular Season

Gotham - 1 (Purce 20’)

Washington Spirit - 0

Lineups:

Gotham (433): Betos; Dorsey, Freeman (Lewandowski, 87’), Krieger, Dydasco; Torres (Baxter, 88’), Mewis, Zerboni; Monaghan (Kawasumi, 82’), Onumonu (Tucker, 82’), Purce

Spirit (4231): Kingsbury; Heilferty (Sheva, 73’), Sonnett, Staab, Rodriguez (Goff, 62’); Roddar, Sullivan (Brooks, 45’); Sanchez (Aylmer, 45’), Feist, Alexander (Elwell, 62’); Hatch

Bookings:

Gotham - Monaghan 74’, Betos 90’

Spirit - Goff 90+7’