The Kansas City Current handed Washington Spirit their biggest loss of the season with a 3-0 defeat Sunday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.
After a solid start for both teams, Kansas City dominated the first half, putting the ball into the back of the net 5 times — although 2 were called offside — controlling the pace of play, and forcing turnovers in the midfield that kept the Spirit on the defensive.
The Current’s first goal came in the 18th minute when Kate Del Fava sent a long ball from the corner of the field to Lo’eau LaBonta just outside the box. LaBonta’s kick from distance soared into the back of the net, well over the head of Kingsbury and the Spirit defenders. LaBonta, the celebration queen of the NWSL and Kansas City’s leading scorer, capped off her goal with a golf putt celebration.
LaBonta’s goal seemed to take the air out of the Spirit’s tires. For the rest of the half, they struggled to maintain possession or move the ball out of their defensive half in the face of Kansas City’s high press. Washington’s only real chance that half came in the 6th minute, when a long ball from Bailey Feist was deflected into the post by goalkeeper AD Franch.
After goals by Cece Kizer and Kristen Hamilton were called offside, the Current finally got a goal to stick in the 38th minute. Although Washington cleared the kick-in from a corner away from the net, it was easily recaptured by Kansas City, who served it back into the waiting knees of Kizer. Just moments later, the Current scored again when Hamilton dribbled the ball through Spirit defenders and tipped it off to Claire Lavogez. Lavogez’s first touch sent the ball into the far corner of the net, putting her team ahead by 3.
At the start of the second half, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, and Camryn Biegalski all subbed on, with the team creating a 4-3-3 formation. This reversion to a more typical formation and combination of players led to more possession and control in the second half. Washington was able to stop the bleeding and hold Kansas City to 3 goals but could not break through the Current’s back line to score themselves. Their best chances were shots from outside the box, but all went just wide or were saved by Franch.
- Washington’s gamble fail to pay off. The Spirit took a chance this week both in formation and starting line-up. The team has played almost every game this season in a 4-3-3 formation but began tonight in 3-2-2-3 with a number of usual starters on the bench. While these changes allowed some Spirit players to rest in their third game in 8 days, interim head coach Albertin Montoya said after the game that Washington is looking ahead to the 2023 season and how they might rebuild. Unfortunately, the result was the team’s only loss by more than 1 goal, and only a second-half change back to the standard formation allowed them to recover.
- No spoilers. According to Andi Sullivan, the Spirit wanted to use their ability to impact the NWSL table to motivate them this match, even though they could no longer qualify for playoffs themselves. Evidently, it wasn’t motivation enough. Winning this match clinched Kansas City’s playoff spot and kept them in the race for the 2022 NWSL Shield, just 2 points behind leaders the Portland Thorns. The highest the Spirit can finish is 9th, and after tonight, it will take some luck to get there. Not only will Washington need to win their final game against Houston Dash, they will need both Orlando Pride to lose and Racing Louisville FC to lose or draw next weekend to secure 9th.
- Silver lining. Despite allowing multiple goals, the Spirit’s defense did put out some solid performances. Aubrey Kingsbury and Sam Staab showed why they remain the defensive core of this team. Kingsbury made a few big saves in the first half, often coming off her line to take down Kansas City players on break-away runs. Staab frustrated Kristen Hamilton in particular, squaring off against the Kansas City forward one-on-one in the box and winning possession more than once.
NWSL Regular Season - Game #21
Washington Spirit: 0
Kansas City Current: 3 (Labonta 18’, Kizer 38’, Lavogez 41)
Washington Spirit: (3223, 433) Aubrey Kingsbury; Sam Staab, Anna Heilferty (Camryn Biegalski 46’), Amber Brooks; Andi Sullivan (Trinity Rodman 46’), Dorian Bailey, Jordan Baggett (Ashley Sanchez 46’), Julia Roddar (Karina Rodriguez 87’), Bailey Feist, Tara McKeown (Marisa Sheva 74’); Ashley Hatch
Kansas City Current: (3142) AD Franch; Alex Loera, Kristen Edmonds, Elizabeth Ball; Hailie Mace, Kate Del Fava, Desiree Scott, Lo’eau Labonta, Claire Lavogez (Addisyn Merrick 79’); Cece Kizer (Elyse Bennett 87’), Kristen Hamilton
Spirit: Roddar 7’, Staab 27’