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Defensive miscues doom Washington Spirit in 4-3 loss at Orlando Pride

Marta struck twice, making the Spirit play for a woeful night at the back

ISI Photos/Courtesy of Washington Spirit

The Washington Spirit couldn’t bounce back from their first home loss of 2019, falling 4-3 to the Orlando Pride on a rainy night in Florida. Though the Spirit got goals from Bayley Feist, Cheyna Matthews, and Jordan DiBiasi, Marta’s brace and the worst defensive display from Washington all season gave the Pride a deserved victory.

After a weather delay pushed kickoff back by about 50 minutes, the Spirit got right to work, taking the lead in the 7th minute with the game’s first real attack. A build-up from the back eventually found Matthews, who crossed low from the endline. Rookie Bayley Feist won the race to the ball before cleverly flicking it past a helpless Haley Kopmeyer with her heel. The goal, Feist’s first as a professional, was the earliest of the season for the Spirit.

Washington nearly made it 2-0 from a corner kick three minutes later, and then Kopmeyer just barely beat Matthews to a through ball from Hatch in the 16th minute as the Spirit were simply playing and thinking faster than their hosts.

The Spirit were controlling play, but paid for their first real collective lapse. An inability to get pressure on the ball in the midfield allowed Joanna Boyles to play in behind for Chioma Ubogagu, catching Washington’s back four pushed up too high. Ubogagu ran in alone against Bledsoe before rounding her easily and rolling the ball into the empty net in the 21st minute.

The Pride were instantly lifted by the goal, and Washington didn’t learn their lesson. Orlando took the lead in the 26th minute, again profiting from a lack of pressure in the midfield. This time, Emily van Egmond had plenty of time to pick out a run from Rachel Hill, who fired a laser with her first touch that clipped the crossbar before nestling into the back of the net.

The first goal may not have gotten a response, but the Spirit woke up after the second. Four minutes after Orlando took the lead, Washington grabbed an equalizer. It was simple stuff, as Huster’s excellent long ball to Matthews caught a static Pride defense out. Racing in behind, the Jamaica striker wasted no time, crushing a shot past Kopmeyer to level the scores.

The back-and-forth play continued, with Bledsoe making a tricky save on Alanna Kennedy in the 33rd minute. Later in the half, Huster’s hopeful deep cross nearly became an own goal in the Spirit’s favor. On the resulting corner, Chloe Logarzo very nearly copied the Olimpico Jordan DiBiasi produced earlier in the season, but Kopmeyer just barely punched the ball away despite pressure from Matthews.

The Spirit very nearly took a lead within 90 seconds of the start of the half. Sullivan’s free kick from 30 yards forced Kopmeyer to stay on her line, and with three Spirit players bearing down on the ball, a goal seemed certain. McKenzie Berryhill, facing her old club, won the race to the ball, but nodded it inches wide.

Orlando made Washington play within a minute. Logarzo lost a battle for a loose ball with Greening on the touchline, and Greening pushed play into the box for Marta. The Brazilian legend had been quiet all night, but finally getting a bit of a lucky break, she made no mistake, curling a tremendous shot around Bledsoe to hand the Pride a 3-2 lead.

Marta nearly set up a quick fourth for Orlando, crossing for Hill only for Bledsoe to just barely smother the ball in the goalmouth before the Orlando winger could strike.

Richie Burke turned to his bench, bringing Jordan DiBiasi in for Dorian Bailey and shuffling up his midfield and defense in the process. The game roared to life moments later: Bledsoe made a terrific save on former Spirit defender Toni Pressley on the hour mark after Washington’s defense went to sleep. The Pride then felt they’d made it 4-2 a minute later, but Joanna Boyles was called offside before rolling a shot past Bledsoe.

At the other end, the Spirit turned an innocuous 62nd minute free kick into a real threat. Sullivan’s ball over the top from midfield caught the Pride by surprise, and Huster found herself all alone in the box. Huster set her feet before firing from 11 yards, but her shot was too close to Kopmeyer, who slapped it away to preserve Orlando’s lead.

Marta sealed the win for Orlando in the 78th minute. It was another unforced error for the Spirit defense, as Sam Staab’s header back to Bledsoe came up short. Marta pounced, running onto the ball before clipping it over Bledsoe, who had tried to come off her line to close the angle.

Washington nearly conceded again within a minute, as Ubogagu’s cross found Emily van Egmond only for the Australian international to slice her shot over the bar while falling down.

The Spirit were trying to find their way back into the game, but after misses from Thomas, Sullivan, and Hatch, they finally pulled one back in the 94th minute. Dougherty Howard’s ball into the area was poorly dealt with by Pressley, and Hatch kept it alive with a header. DiBiasi still had a ton of work to do, shuffling her feet to somehow escape three Orlando defenders at the top of the box before calmly firing past Kopmeyer to make it 4-3.

The Spirit ran for the ball to try to spark a comeback, but the goal was the second-to-last kick of the game, as the full time whistle came the moment Orlando touched the resulting kickoff.

The defeat marks a second straight loss for Washington, who will look to regroup during a bye week before resuming their schedule on July 20, as they host the Houston Dash.

Box Score

NWSL Regular Season (Game 11)
Orlando Pride 4 (Ubogagu 21; Hill 26; Marta 48, 78)
Washington Spirit 3 (Feist 7, Matthews 30, DiBiasi 94+)

Pride - (433): Haley Kopmeyer; Erin Greening, Toni Pressley, Shelina Zadorsky, Carson Pickett; Joanna Boyles (Dani Weatherholt 82), Emily van Egmond, Alanna Kennedy (C); Rachel Hill (Marisa Viggiano 77), Marta (Abby Elinsky 90), Chioma Ubogagu

Spirit (4312): Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, McKenzie Berryhill, Sam Staab, Dorian Bailey (Jordan DiBiasi 56); Andi Sullivan (C), Paige Nielsen, Chloe Logarzo (Meggie Dougherty Howard 62); Bayley Feist (Crystal Thomas 72); Ashley Hatch, Cheyna Matthews

Pride - Pressley 62
Spirit - Staab 59, Dougherty Howard 73