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Washington Spirit, Reign FC battle to thrilling 2-2 draw

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Late, late goals from both teams forced the Spirit to settle for a point at Audi Field

Kelley Piper

The Washington Spirit and Reign FC battled to a thrilling 2-2 draw before a crowd of 17,418 at Audi Field tonight. The Spirit, desperately pushing for a win to get into the NWSL playoffs, took two leads, only for the visitors to produce a quick equalizer each time. A wild finish saw Chloe Logarzo put Washington ahead in the 90th minute, only for Ifeoma Onumonu to equalize two minutes into second half stoppage time.

Despite the big crowd, some nervy early play nearly handed the visitors an early lead. The Spirit opted to play short from a goal kick, and the visitors put them under high pressure. Andi Sullivan’s pass to Meggie Dougherty Howard saw the latter suddenly in a crowd of blue jerseys, and Beverly Yanez knocked the ball loose. Rosie White wasted no time from there, striking a first-time shot from 19 yards that curled over Aubrey Bledsoe only to thump off the crossbar.

Reign FC were in control, with the Spirit showing the rust of three weeks without a game, but a tactical switch paid off in the 30th minute. Mal Pugh and Crystal Thomas switched wings, and from the left, Pugh escaped both Theresa Nielsen and Bethany Balcer before crossing towards the near post. Ashley Hatch gained position on Megan Oyster, but still had a ton to do, twisting in mid-air to do just enough to guide the ball past Casey Murphy for her 6th goal of the season.

Reign FC had a nearly immediate response, equalizing in the 35th minute. After several corners had caused trouble earlier, they finally made their set pieces pay off, as White’s delivery wasn’t won cleanly by Bledsoe. Balcer picked up the loose ball, touching it into a pocket before lashing a low shot through traffic that tucked into the bottom corner.

The game was suddenly wide open, with Hatch forcing Murphy into a diving save from long distance almost immediately after the game resumed. At the other end, Balcer’s cross just evaded Crosson, and White probably should have done more with a free header from 8 yards. Mercifully for the Spirit, the New Zealand international headed her attempt wide.

Perhaps sensing a chance to take a critical three points, Vlatko Andonovski turned to his bench at halftime, bringing on USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, who drew roars during the break after she emerged from the tunnel to do some warm-ups.

The Spirit, however, had the first look once play resumed. Murphy could only punch a corner half-clear, and Sullivan met that with a volley that arced just over the bar. At the other end, Paige Nielsen had to concede a corner after a Rapinoe cross pinballed in the Washington goalmouth.

Richie Burke brought Cheyna Matthews on for Crystal Thomas in an attempt to boost his attack, and her first involvement was nearly a goal. She and Pugh combined to force a turnover at midfield, and suddenly the Spirit had a two-on-two break. Pugh drew the defense before rolling a perfect pass to Matthews, only for the substitute’s finish to be saved spectacularly by Murphy.

Matthews continued to cause Reign FC right back Theresa Nielsen fits, winning several challenges and keeping seemingly lost Spirit attacks alive. That opened up chances to shoot for fellow substitute Chloe Logarzo, whose long-distance bid was blocked, and a skewed effort from Pugh.

The best look came just after that, with Matthews racing out of the midfield before dishing to Pugh. Now attacking from the left wing, Pugh got past Nielsen and Oyster, but couldn’t quite come around on her shot enough, sending it just wide of Murphy’s right-hand post in the 70th minute.

Matthews continued to be in the thick of the action, with her 74th minute cross from the right picking out Hatch, only for Nielsen to arrive just in time to block her shot from 12 yards out. Straight up to the other end, a Rapinoe corner fell untouched on the doorstep before Bledsoe could smother the ball, keeping the scores level.

Reign FC were suddenly back on their feet again, with Rapinoe having a strong shout for a penalty kick waved off by referee Jon Freemon in the 81st minute.

With the Spirit desperately needing a goal to keep their playoff hopes alive, they finally got the breakthrough in the 90th minute. Hatch did wonderful work to spin away from Steph Catley, and with the goal at her mercy, she surprised by looking for a cross. Pugh couldn’t get a foot to the service, but Logarzo managed to collect the ball, set herself up, and curl a gorgeous shot past Murphy and into the upper corner.

However, just moments after seven minutes of stoppage time were announced, Reign FC got a gut-punch of an equalizer. Former Spirit striker Jodie Taylor had been quiet all night, but she smartly dropped back into the midfield to collect a loose ball before laying a through ball for substitute Ifeoma Onumonu to sprint onto. From an angle, Onumonu put just enough on her shot to tuck the ball past Bledsoe, handing the visitors a 92nd minute equalizer.

The draw leaves the Spirit five points out of the NWSL playoff picture with five games to play. Their next game is this coming Saturday, September 21, as they head west to take on the Chicago Red Stars.


Box Score

NWSL Regular Season (Game 19)
Washington Spirit 2 (Hatch 30, Logarzo 90)
Reign FC 2 (Balcer 35, Onumonu 92+)

Lineups:
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Megan Crosson (Amy Harrison 84); Meggie Dougherty Howard, Andi Sullivan (C), Jodran DiBiasi (Chloe Logarzo 64); Mallory Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Crystal Thomas (Cheyna Matthews 59)

Reign (4231): Casey Murphy; Theresa Nielsen, Megan Oyster, Kristen McNabb, Steph Catley; Allie Long (Morgan Andrews 61), Beverly Yanez (C); Bethany Balcer, Rosie White (Megan Rapinoe 46), Darian Jenkins (Ifeoma Onumonu 70); Jodie Taylor

Bookings:
Spirit - None
Reign - McNabb 97+