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Match Recap: Krieger's Goal Not Enough for Spirit to Take Down League Best Reign

The Washington Spirit (2-3-0, 6 pts) fell to NWSL Seattle Reign FC (5-0-0, 15pts) against the NWSL’s top team Saturday night in front of 4,667 at the SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md.

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Ali Krieger defends against Seattle's Sydney Leroux
Ali Krieger defends against Seattle's Sydney Leroux
Cynthia Hobgood

Just 10 days after their first meeting, also won by Seattle, Washington looked to get the better of a Reign team that would likely be a bit more weary playing its second road game in a few days.

Washington did grab control of play to start the match, pressuring early and holding the ball well for the first 20 minutes or so. But Seattle came to life and it was Washington spending the second part of the first half fending off the dynamic Reign attack.

Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris had four of her six saves in the first half. All four were of the show-stopping variety she’s pretty well-known for at this point. In Mark Parsons’ words, “it’s kind of expected.”

Getting to the half unscathed was an accomplishment, and Washington came out ready to take control of the run of play again, pressuring early and often with nearly every player, save Harris, involved.

After a near-miss hitting the post on a shot off a free kick early in the 52nd minute, defender Ali Krieger – not exactly known for her goal-scoring prowess  made good on her second attempt about 30 seconds later. Jodie Taylor’s header off a nicely paced ball from Danesha Adams was deflected by Hope Solo. Taylor’s rebound shot was deflected again by Solo, but again not cleared from the 18 yard box. An unmarked Krieger cracked a one-timer with her left foot past Solo to give Washington the 1-0 lead.

“The first one hit the post and then the second one was just a deflection back out and then I just hit the crap out of it and hoped that it would either deflect off somebody or go right in or just kind of put it back in the box,” said Krieger, who joked they should try playing her at forward. [Listen to more from Krieger on the goal.]

The goal marked the first time Seattle had allowed a goal in the run of play this season, the first time Seattle was scored on first, and was Krieger’s second in career NWSL play – the first came also Seattle last season.

But just over a minute later, Washington lost momentum as Nahomi Kawasumi sent a short corner kick to Jessica Fishlock, who found Kim Little a bit withdrawn. Little sent a ball to the far post. Sydney Leroux headed the ball past Harris and an open Fishlock scored in the open goal for yet another Washington goal conceded on a set piece.

“On the second service, we have to re-mark, and I don’t think we did as well as we could have,” said Krieger about dealing with a short corner kick situation. “Now we’re going to go back to the problem board on that and continue to work and hopefully continue to progress for the next game on set pieces."

In the 76th minute, Seattle took at advantage of some sloppy play near the centerline for Washington. Victoria Perez played a ball back to Toni Pressley, whose pass forward was far to soft and was easily cleaned up by Fishlock, who had spent most of the day doing exactly that in the midfield. She sent a ball into a streaking Sydney Leroux with Washington’s central defenders on the retreat. Leroux only had to beat Tori Huster to send a shot past a diving Harris for the 2-1 lead.

“Just thinking back to their goals, their goals were really cheap—they came from our mistakes in a set piece and the giveaway centrally,” said Parsons. “I remember their second goal, we’re on the halfway line going forward, she should pass forward, we turn around pass back. What happens next? We give it away."

On the flip side, really facing their first test and certainly their first deficit, Seattle could revel in learning when their backs were against the wall, they had the fortitude to bounce back…quickly.

“I think it showed a lot about us tonight – about how resilient we potentially can be and how we’ve got some talent in our group that can win games,” said Seattle Head Coach Laura Harvey. “We were definitely tested throughout the 90 minutes today. Credit to Washington for that.”

Little, recently named NWSL Player of the Month also praised Washington and her own team for its determination.

“I think Washington in our previous game against them and tonight have definitely been the best side we’ve played against so far,” Little said. “They’ve been very hard to break down. They went up against us today, but we showed what we’re about and our character to come back and win 2-1.”

Parsons said the loss was a tough on to take, based on the overall performance of his side.

“When you create the chances we did and you have control of the game in periods that the way we did, you have to get points. That’s the most disappointing part,” Parsons said. “We just have to grab our goals. And when we do grab our goal, we’ve got to see out five or 10 minutes.”

The Spirit next face FC Kansas City on the road Sunday, May 11. Crystal Dunn, Harris, Krieger are currently with the U.S. National Team, while Robyn Gayle and Diana Matheson are with Canada, preparing for their two national teams to meet Thursday night in Winnipeg, Canada. All five will meet the team in Kansas City.