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Washington Spirit fall 4-0 on road against Portland Thorns

Injuries and fatigue compounded defensive mistakes

Caitlin Buckley

Two corner kicks and a penalty call made the Washington Spirit’s injury woes worse on Saturday afternoon as the Spirit fell 4-0 on the road against the Portland Thorns. Washington posted a good first fifteen minutes but then Portland turned the tide and scored three goals in the first half. Portland hadn’t scored a single goal off a corner kick all season but managed to score twice via corner kicks this afternoon thanks to poor marking and defensive It was the second four-goal loss from the Spirit this year.

With Hayley Raso out due to yellow card accumulation, Portland head coach Mark Parsons deployed Allie Long up top of a 3-5-2 but Long roamed a decent amount. Long was potent in the third minute when she challenged for a Emily Sonnett-taken free kick that DiDi Haracic leaped for.

Washington sat pretty low a tactic partly forced by high heat and a short bench. It worked pretty well early on and the Spirit kept most of the possession in the first 15 minutes even though the Thorns had the most attacking chances but in the 19th minute a combo between Mallory Pugh and Estefania Banini led to a hard-struck shot from distance by Tori Huster.

However the Spirit’s fortune turned quickly, Nadia Nadim earned a free kick in the midfield which she took quickly and passed it on the ground to Allie Long who ran onto it and dribbled into the box. Spirit center back Shelina Zadorsky held onto Long for a bit and then goalkeeper DiDi Haracic tripped Long which led to a penalty kick.

Nadia Nadim poorly struck her penalty kick and it went right to Haracic who blocked it but the rebound went straight back out to Nadim who converted it to give Portland an early lead.

Two quick passes from the back got the ball to Nadim on the left flank who cut it backinto the center to Christine Sinclair who with her first touch pushed it by Zadorsky and then slid it by Haracic to the far post.

Portland improved from there and often managed to get behind the Spirit’s backline with ease thanks to poor spacing between lines from the Spirit.

At the 40 minute mark, Klingenberg’s corner kick was headed by Emily Sonnett who wasn’t well-marked and then Haracic couldn’t get to the ball. Huster tried to reach for the ball and hit it out but the ball went in for Portland’s third goal of the game.

A few minutes before the half closed, Klingenberg had plenty of space at the top of the box to set up a 20-yard shot that clinged off the top of the crossbar and the half ended without another goal for Portland.

Washington made two subs at halftime. Shelina Zadorsky, who wasn’t at full health on Wednesdsay when she needed to replace Estelle Johnson and looked rough in the first half, exited and was replaced by Kassey Kallman. Kallman just cleared concussion protocol and was listed as probable on the injury report. Pugh exited with what looked like a hip issue and Cali Farquharson entered for her.

A few minutes into the half, Horan fed a ball to Long who was offside so her conversion didn’t count. Banini did a late tackle on Horan and both went down but Banini was hurt enough to exit. As a result, five minutes into second half the Spirit had exhausted their three substitutes.

Nadim ran onto a ball over the Spirit backline and crossed it into the goalmouth and Long ran into late to get a shot off but her shot went wide. Washington’s backline was often leaving players unmarked and the crosses from the Thorns grew more potent.

A poor pass from goalkeeper Adrianna Franch went right to Cheyna Williams who cut between two Thorns defenders but ended up getting forced more outside but earned a corner kick for the Spirit. Five minutes later Meggie Dougherty Howard had a shot from the outside of the box that forced a dive from Franch.

Horan dribbled through space in the midfield then passed it to Nadim who was between Caprice Dydasco and Whitney Church and Haracic came out to block Nadim’s breakaway then Dydasco took care of the spill. Washington’s defense was looking increasingly gassed and making many mistakes.

Klingenberg took a corner kick with ten minutes left that Long headed it only for it to bounce off the crossbar and back into the goalmouth where Sinclair got a hold of the deflection and converted it near the far post for the fourth goal of the match.

After the goal the Thorns made two substitutions for players who haven’t earned many minutes this season, Savannah Jordan and Emily Menges, but despite pushing for another goal didn’t get another. With the win, the Thorns could clinch a playoff spot tomorrow if Sky Blue loses or ties against FC Kansas City.

This was the Spirit’s second four goal loss of the season and the team sits at the bottom of the table. Next Sunday the Spirit will face Sky Blue FC in New Jersey.