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Washington Spirit shut out for third straight game in 1-0 loss to Orlando Pride

Alanna Kennedy’s goal from midfield settled a game of few chances

Caitlin Buckley

Once again, the Washington Spirit were able to largely contain an opponent, but once again they couldn’t get their attack going as they fell 1-0 to the Orlando Pride. A game of few chances was settled by Alanna Kennedy, who scored from over 50 yards in the early going. Washington threatened sporadically, but ultimately couldn’t get a goal for their efforts.

Washington offered one surprise in an injury-hit lineup, as Joanna Lohman started at left forward in Jim Gabarra’s 4-3-3. Between players leaving for deals in Europe and a long list of players out hurt, the Spirit carried only six of the allowed seven players on their bench, and that included two goalkeepers and two injured players (Estefania Banini and Rose Lavelle, who per Gabarra are expected to return next week).

Orlando started off strong but a 9th minute Pride corner kick, Francisca Ordega launched an 80-yard run that culminated in a pass to Ashley Hatch, whose shot from around the penalty spot went high.

It was a miss that the Spirit would rue, as two minutes later Kennedy scored a potential goal of the year. A missed connection at midfield saw the Australian international pick off a pass, stride just a yard into the Spirit half, and launch a shot. With Aubrey Bledsoe off her line to stay connected with the Washington back four, the shot was perfect, going an inch or so above Bledsoe’s dive and settling in the back of the net.

Orlando had pressed early, but as the match wore on they dropped into a more defensive stance. That gave Washington an edge in possession, but in truth neither team could do much with the ball, and both sides finished well under 70% passing accuracy at halftime. In particular, the Spirit struggled to create movement off the ball, making Orlando’s task a simple one.

Washington’s midfield took on an unusual look as the half wore on. Lohman dropped off the front line a bit, while Rebecca Quinn spent a lot of time wider to the right than normal. At times, the Spirit almost appeared to be playing a 4-2-2-2, but ultimately it didn’t make much of an impact on the game.

It was pretty low energy, and the promising moments still ended up fizzling out. Emily van Egmond had a shot from 25 yards out as the half drew to a close that skipped just wide. In the final moments of the half, Sullivan sent a long ball from the Spirit’s own half to Lohman, whose header was easily caught by Harris.

As the second half began, the Spirit started pressing more and moving more. This led to a solid runs of possession, but ultimately Washington’s best looks ended with shots that missed the frame. Taylor Smith’s overlap midway through the half ended with her blazing a shot over the bar from wide on the right, while Ordega shot into the outside netting after Tori Huster picked her out with an excellent pass in behind the defense.

Orlando responded with moves off the bench, including adding Marta to the mix before later bringing in one ex-Spirit player (Toni Pressley) for another (Christine Nairn). Gabarra replied with Tiffany Weimer, who came in for Quinn and went up top, with fellow substitute Meggie Dougherty Howard dropping into the midfield.

Caprice Dydasco has never scored in the NWSL, but she ended up coming very close in the 84th minute. Her shot from the top of the box curled to the far post, forcing Ashlyn Harris to parry it away at full stretch.

That was it, though, and the Spirit ended their June slate of games without a single goal during the month. It gets tougher from here, as the Spirit have three road games in July before returning to the Maryland SoccerPlex on July 21. Next Sunday, the Spirit are on the road against Chicago. Kickoff is set for 6:00pm Eastern.