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Set pieces lead Washington Spirit to 3-1 win over Portland Thorns FC

Jordan DiBiasi’s corner kick service was key as the Spirit moved to the top of the table

Kelley Piper

The Washington Spirit used a sharp finish from Ashley Hatch and the corner kick service of Jordan DiBiasi to grab a 3-1 win over Portland Thorns FC in front of 3,079 at the Maryland SoccerPlex tonight. Hatch struck in the 16th minute, while DiBiasi’s set piece delivery created an 48th minute own goal before she bent a 71st minute corner directly into the net.

Coming off of a road win over Sky Blue FC, Spirit coach Richie Burke sent the same lineup out, and after an energetic start, the Spirit broke through in the 16th minute. A flowing move seemed to end with Tori Huster and Andi Sullivan having no options and opting to reset and start over from the back. However, the Spirit back four moved the ball across to the left, where Amy Harrison — in her final game before departing for World Cup duty with Australia — was given time and space to weigh a through ball from deep.

Ashley Hatch timed her run to perfection, breaking the Portland offside trap and striding in before firing low past Britt Eckerstrom, giving Washington a 1-0 lead.

The Thorns replied by upping the game’s tempo, repeatedly looking to play in behind the defense. A long ball from former Spirit defender Katherine Reynolds send Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic racing down the right in the 21st minute, but her cutback was badly scuffed by Caitlin Foord. Andressinha had a second look, but her shot ramped up off of Huster, and the Spirit cleared the resulting corner.

The visitors started to play their way into the game more as the half wore on, though the Spirit adjusted to the direct tactics by dropping their line off and impeding runs from Foord and Crnogorcevic where possible.

After a 24 minute lightning delay in the 44th minute, the teams went through a strange process of warming back up, playing ? minutes, and then going into the locker rooms again for halftime. Still, despite that tiny amount of time, the Spirit nearly struck again. Sullivan stepped high to press as the Thorns tried to pass out of the back, forcing a bad backpass from Gabby Seiler. Sullivan poked the ball free from Emily Menges’ control, but Eckerstrom charged off her line to snuff the chance out at the Spirit captain’s feet.

The game still felt up for grabs coming out for the second half, but the Spirit quickly took advantage by grabbing a quick goal. Jordan DiBiasi’s 47th minute corner kick found a crowd of players at the top of the six-yard box. In the scrum, the ball appeared to ricochet off of Sam Staab and then Dagny Brynjarsdottir before bouncing over the line, making it 2-0.

DiBiasi’s corner kick delivery was causing Portland all sorts of problems, and a 58th minute outswinger to the back post was only half-cleared. The ball fell perfectly for Meggie Dougherty Howard, who struck a rocket that was destined for the upper corner, only for Britt Eckerstrom to somehow produce a spectacular, diving save.

Portland pushed back, with Foord’s cross forcing Bledsoe to punch away in the 64th minute. The ball found Andressinha, who moved it to substitute Tyler Lussi. Lussi deftly spun to her left to shoot, but Bledsoe was alert and smothered the effort.

Lussi and ex-Spirit midfielder Angela Salem were part of a formation change in the 54th minute from Mark Parsons, who moved from a 3412 into a 4231. The Thorns began combining down the right flank well, and eventually pulled a goal back. After their initial attack didn’t pan out, Andressinha kept the play alive, feeding Crnogorcevic. Bledsoe came out to try and claim the ball, but Crnogorcevic smartly shielded her off before firing a hard cross right at Foord, who simply let the ball ping off of her and over the line in the 67th minute.

Portland was looking like they might come all the way back, but another Spirit corner dashed their hopes in the 71st minute. DiBiasi whipped another promising ball in from the bench side, and both Eckerstrom and Cheyna Matthews both converged on the ball. Neither could get a touch, though, and DiBiasi ended up with an olimpico after the ball tucked neatly into the back of the net.

The Thorns created some late chances, including a Brynjarsdottir volley attempt that flew just high in the 75th minute and a corner that required a timely block from Huster in the 84th. Sullivan nearly added a late fourth, launching a 25 yarder over the bar just before the start of stoppage time.

With the win, the Spirit move into a temporary tie with the Houston Dash atop the NWSL table. They’ll be back in action next Sunday, as they face a daunting trip to the midwest to take on the Chicago Red Stars.

Box Score

NWSL Regular Season (Game 5)
Washington Spirit 3 (Hatch 16, Brynjarsdottir 47og, DiBiasi 71)
Portland Thorns FC 1 (Foord 67)

Spirit (4312): Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Amy Harrison (Dorian Bailey 70); Andi Sullivan (C), Meggie Dougherty Howard (McKenzie Berryhill 75), Chloe Logarzo; Jordan DiBiasi; Ashley Hatch, Cheyna Matthews (Cali Farquharson 83)

Thorns (352): Britt Eckerstrom; Katherine Reynolds, Emily Menges (C), Gabby Seiler (Tyler Lussi 54); Ellie Carpenter, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Celeste Boureille (Angela Salem 54), Andressinha, Meghan Klingenberg; Caitlin Foord, Ana-Maric Crnogorcevic

Spirit - Dougherty Howard 24, Staab 88, Logarzo 93+
Thorns - None