The Washington Spirit revisited the site of their first NWSL Championship as they looked for some good luck to get back to winning ways versus Racing Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium. Instead, an all too familiar pattern unfolded as Ashley Hatch’s second half goal cancelled out Nadia Nadim’s opener and the Spirit collected their league leading ninth draw of the season.
For the first thirteen minutes the wrong team looked like they played a physical match just three days ago. Racing Louisville’s high press had Washingotn all out of sorts and rarely able to work the ball out of their defensive area.
During this spell a driving run from CB Satara Murray forced some quick steps from the Spirit and Nadia Nadim found Kirsten Davis between the Amber Brooks and Sam Staab. Davis drove toward Aubrey Kingsbury who sprawled to push her wide and as the defenders retreated to the line the shot hit the outside netting.
In the 23rd minute, after the Spirit had worked to assert themselves into the game, Amber Brooks was caught in possession in the box and Nadim was able to collect the ball and rip a shot that Kingsbury pushed wide. A minute later Trinity Rodman found space on the left and cut inside at the top of the box to test goal but she can’t wrap her foot around the ball and it arrowed wide.
Trinity Rodman tested goalkeeper Katie Lund again in the 27th minute as a wicked cross flew to a floating Rodman whose header was on target but pushed over the bar.
A few minutes before halftime Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman nearly combine for what would have been one of the goals of the season. Rodman cut across the pitch evading multiple defenders before backheeling the ball to Sanchez while she continued her run to curl behind the defense. Sanchez floated the ball over the backline, dropping it to Rodman whose volley flew wide as the offside flag went up.
Halftime came with the scored tied 0-0. Louisville was surely the happier team at the break, having put Washington under a lot of pressure and not allowing them to get into the game for the first quarter of the half. Both teams had chances, with Rodman’s header saved by Lund and Nadim’s shot pushed away by Kingsbury representing the best chance from each squad.
The next forty-five minute would be crucial to the Spirit’s playoff hopes. Anything less than more goals scored than their opponent wouldn’t be good enough for last year’s champs, who were running out of time to start their march toward a playoff spot.
Perhaps sensing this, striker Ashley Hatch entered the squad after halftime for fullback Anna Heilferty.
Washington’s job got harder in the 52nd minute as Nadia Nadim found space at the top of the box and arrowed a low shot into a bottom corner to put Louisville ahead.
Three minutes later Sanchez feeds a ball through the line to Rodman who got too much air under her shot that beat Katie Lund but also floated high and wide. However, the Spirit would get their equalizer in the 64th minute as substitute Ashley Hatch hits a low first time shot that beats Lund near post.
Katie Lund refuses to be beat a second time in the 74th minute after a slick full pitch break that involved three passes between Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman, but the latter’s shot was pushed high over the bar.
Both teams took advantage of a lot of space to try to work chances but neither could capitalize as the clock ticked toward ten minutes remaining in normal time. Kris Ward brought on Tinaya Alexander and Louisville called on veteran forward Jessica McDonald as both teams sought the goal that would give them the full allotment of points.
Evidence of what three points would mean was demonstrated by tremendous defensive tracking back to break up attacks in their own defensive third by Trinity Rodman, then Jess McDonald.
Trinity Rodman and Jessica McDonald making clutch defensive plays late in the second half of a 1-1 game, this game is a ride tonight. #nwsl— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) August 6, 2022
Four minutes of stoppage time were added to an increasingly tense, yet still open and unpredictable, match.
Bayley Feist got a deflection after Lund came way out of her area for a big kick. Feist deflected the ball which fell to Ashley Sanchez as Lund scrambled back toward her line. Sanchez had to take a touch but a lofted chip on target would have required a tremendous save, but tired legs saw the ball fall short instead.
The match ends and it’s Washington’s ninth draw of the season.
NWSL Regular Season
Racing - 1 (Nadim 52’)
Spirit - 1 (Hatch 64’)
Racing (433): Lund; Fox, Murray, Bonner, Lester; Milliet, Olofsson (Chidiac 70’), Howell (McDonald 78’); Davis (Ekic 90’), Nadim, DeMelo
Spirit (4231): Kingsbury; Heilferty (Hatch 46’), Staab, Brooks, O’Hara; Bailey, Sullivan (Feist 65’); Rodman, Sanchez, Baggett (Aylmer 65’); McKeown (Alexander 79’)
Racing - Lester 78’
Spirit - None