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Mistakes, set pieces doom Washington Spirit in 3-1 loss at Portland Thorns FC

Despite Andi Sullivan’s golazo, the Spirit remain winless at Providence Park

Nikita Taparia

The Washington Spirit offered plenty of good spells, but paid for their letdowns en route to a 3-1 loss against Portland Thorns FC. Despite Andi Sullivan’s wonderful second half strike, goals from Hayley Raso, Emily Sonnett, and Christine Sinclair handed the Spirit their only multi-goal loss of the season. The result leaves Washington with just one win from their last nine matches.

Washington created the game’s first look, with Tori Huster’s 4th minute cross from deep picking out Sullivan, who came in from deep to attack the service. Sullivan beat Emily Sonnett to the ball, but Ellie Carpenter did just enough to prevent Sullivan from snapping it down on frame.

Washington were showing no fear of the big crowd or tough opponent, but the promise of those early moments was undone by a mistake at the back. A ball over the top from Emily Menges caught the Spirit back four trying to step up, putting Christine Sinclair in space down the left. Sinclair’s cross wasn’t dealt with particularly well, clipping off of Elise Kellond-Knight, who couldn’t control. Her international teammate Hayley Raso pounced, curling a shot around Kellond-Knight and past Aubrey Bledsoe.

The Spirit appealed for offside, and for good reason: Dagny Brynjarsdottir, having missed an attempt to head the cross in, was on her knees on the goal line, preventing Bledsoe from making a play on the ball. Nevertheless, referee Michael Radchuk — even after an extensive chat with his assistant referee — gave the goal.

Washington kept trying to play their game, but after a lengthy spell of possession, Bledsoe had to produce a stellar save to keep them in touch. Tobin Heath went on a marauding run through the midfield before playing a splendid diagonal ball in behind Washington’s defense. Raso was in alone and opted for power from the right, but Bledsoe somehow got her left hand out in the nick of time.

Unfortunately, it only delayed the bad news by a few seconds. Heath sent the resulting corner to the near post, where Sonnett awkwardly got a leg out in front of Kellond-Knight, getting just enough of a touch to somehow guide the ball past a screened Bledsoe. The 19th minute goal recalled the prior meeting between the teams, when the Spirit managed to score two unusual goals from corners.

The second goal appeared to stun Washington, who then had a bigger scare in the 28th minute. Sonnett, trying to play a long cross-field ball, instead accidentally fired the ball right into Rose Lavelle’s head. After eight minutes of treatment and a quick trip to the locker room, Lavelle was cleared to return to play.

Lavelle, in fact, had the game’s next shot, but Adrianna Franch — who had been questionable in the lead-up to the game — made the save look routine despite getting a late look at the ball.

Washington had pushed their line of contention well into Portland’s half in pursuit of a needed goal, but their efforts kept coming up just short. Franch denied Lavelle moments into the half, while DiBiasi and Thomas both had shots go just wide shortly thereafter.

As they so often do, the Thorns made the Spirit regret those misses. One Portland corner became another, and Heath’s 63rd minute delivery picked out Horan. Normally deadly, Horan’s header instead was blocked by Sullivan in mid-air. Unfortunately for the Spirit, the ball fell right to Christine Sinclair, who showed characteristic composure to control the ball before guiding it over a crowd and past Bledsoe.

Washington may have been down, but they weren’t quitting on the game. Lavelle chased down substitute Chloe Logarzo’s 68th minute cross after it escaped Thomas, laying it back to Sullivan. One-on-one with Horan, Sullivan took a couple of touches to buy some space before dipping inside and firing a spectacular 24-yard rocket into the upper corner.

The Spirit pushed for another goal, but the Thorns dropped into a low block, flooding their defensive third with red and black shirts and killing the game off effectively. Washington probably should have pulled one more goal back in stoppage time. DiBiasi’s early service sent Thomas down the right, and after getting to the endline she fizzed a low cross towards the penalty spot. The ball evaded Horan and Menges, going right to Ashley Hatch, but the Spirit striker didn’t make full contact on her shot, leaving Franch with time to make a diving stop.

Now two-thirds of the way through the season, the Spirit (6W-3D-7L) remain in 7th place. They return to action quickly, coming back to the east coast to host Utah Royals FC on Wednesday night at 7:30pm.

Box Score

NWSL Regular Season (Game 16)
Portland Thorns 3 (Raso 5, Sonnett 19, Sinclair 63)
Washington Spirit 1 (Sullivan 68)

Thorns (4231): Adrianna Franch; Ellie Carpenter (Katherine Reynolds 61), Emily Sonnett, Emily Menges, Meghan Klingenberg; Dagny Brynjarsdottir (Elizabeth Ball 83), Lindsey Horan; Hayley Raso, Christine Sinclair (C), Tobin Heath; Midge Purce

Spirit (4312): Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Elise Kellond-Knight (Dorian Bailey 63); Andi Sullivan (C), Meggie Dougherty Howard (Chloe Logarzo 63), Rose Lavelle; Jordan DiBiasi; Crystal Thomas, Ashley Hatch

Thorns - None
Spirit - Kellond-Knight 58