Estefania Banini netted a brace to push the Washington Spirit past FC Kansas City 3-2 on Saturday night. This was the Spirit's first-ever road win over the two-time defending NWSL champions. Banini scored on either side of Joanna Lohman's goal midway through a second half that ended up producing four goals. Despite a late push by FCKC, the Spirit hung on for their eighth win of the season.
Starting XI: Kelsey Wys; Whitney Church, Megan Oyster, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Christine Nairn, Tori Huster, Joanna Lohman; Cheyna Williams, Francisca Ordega, Estefania Banini
Cheyna Williams started up top to provide the Spirit with more speed, while Whitney Church made her first start of the season at right back. Caprice Dydasco moved over to the left, with Alyssa Kleiner making way. Recently-signed Danish international Line Sigvardsen Jensen is not yet available to play.
The Spirit opened play with two potent free kicks from Christine Nairn in the 8th and 16th minutes. Joanna Lohman's shot was off target following the first free kick, while no Spirit players could connect with Whitney Church's eventual cross on the second.
Striker Francisca Ordega went down injured in the 31st minute with after a collision, but after being seen by the trainer she returned to play. Ordega recovered well enough to play 84 minutes on the night.
In first half stoppage time, Katie Bowen fouled Williams near midfield, giving Nairn another chance to size up a free kick. After a bit of chaos inside the box, Banini controlled the ball from 15 yards out and slid her shot past Nicole Barnhart to the far right side to give Washington the lead.
Kansas City's challenges with set pieces continued to hurt them after halftime. The Spirit had two good chances at the beginning of the half before scoring in the 58th minute, in part due to FC Kansas City's inability to defend inside their 18-yard box. After a melee in the box following Nairn's corner kick in which Megan Oyster and Ordega each took shots, Joanna Lohman put her left-footed shot past several Blues defenders and Barnhart to double the Spirit's advantage.
Set pieces continued to be a theme, as Kansas City rebounded in the 69th minute when Frances Silva scored her first goal of the season. Erika Tymrak sent a corner kick to the back post, where Silva backtracked from her mark and headed it past Wys to narrow the Spirit's lead.
Banini scored her second goal of the match in the 82nd minute, and it was not a surprise to see where the goal came from. Former Spirit player Yael Averbuch headed Christine Nairn's corner kick of the box but Banini, waiting to collect any loose balls, sent a rocket past Barnhart and into the upper left-hand corner to make it 3-1.
The Blues would not quit, and in the second half stoppage time Shea Groom halved the Spirit's lead. Groom dribbled through Estelle Johnson and Oyster before sliding her shot past Wys and into the bottom right corner. Despite Groom's late goal, the Spirit held on to their lead to finish 3-2. The Spirit are now 8-2-2 with 26 points, level with the Portland Thorns (who play later tonight).
Next week, the Spirit travel to New Jersey to face Sky Blue FC. Kickoff is set for 7pm.