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Washington Spirit, Houston Dash scrap their way to 0-0 draw

A tie wasn’t what the Spirit wanted, but it was all they could manage in Texas

Wilf Thorne/ISI Photos

The Washington Spirit couldn’t manage to get the win they badly needed, settling for a 0-0 draw on the road against a stubborn Houston Dash side. With both teams showing heavy legs after playing on the weekend, chances were few and far between. A wild finish saw Mal Pugh denied by a Jane Campbell kick-save at one end, while Andi Sullivan headed a Kristie Mewis shot off the line in stoppage time, but the breakthrough never arrived.

In just the 3rd minute, the Spirit thought they had a crucial lead. Ashley Hatch forced a giveaway from Ally Prisock on the Dash back line, then played the ball wide left. Crystal Thomas served the ball in as Houston scrambled, and with Jane Campbell pulled out of the play, Hatch took a touch before doing just enough to guide the ball over the line in a crowd of orange shirts. However, referee Ekaterina Koroleva immediately called the goal back, as the ball popped up and hit Hatch’s forearm before she could shoot.

Both teams exchanged good looks in the aftermath, with Sofia Huerta blazing a shot over the bar before Crystal Thomas sent a promising look wide in the 16th minute. However, from there the game settled into a bit of a slog, with both teams seeing attacks end with errant passes.

Finally, just before halftime, the Spirit started to show some class, with Campbell having to punch a Pugh cross away to shut down one Spirit attack. Prisock did just barely enough to prevent Jordan DiBiasi from getting a shot away in the 39th minute after more good work from Washington, while at the other end, Rachel Daly missed a Kealia Ohai cross by inches after the service eluded Sam Staab.

Washington began the second half with a much higher line of contention. While the Spirit have the better of the early exchanges, they nearly conceded an unusual goal. Kristie Mewis sent a 57th minute corner to the back post, and as the ball eluded Aubrey Bledsoe’s leap, Amber Brooks glanced the ball back into the goalmouth just before it went out of play. The ball struck a Spirit defender and nearly bobbled in for an own goal, only for Bledsoe to recover.

The Spirit began to show some fatigue around the hour mark, and were let off the hook by Huerta’s choice to shoot rather than pass to Daly after a poor pass out of the back put Andi Sullivan into a bad spot under pressure. Head coach Richie Burke responded with two quick subs, bringing Megan Crosson on against her old club for Cali Farquharson in the 59th minute and then adding Cheyna Matthews to the front line, with Jordan DiBiasi making way in the 66th.

Matthews nearly created an awkward goal in the 73rd minute, as her attempt to reach a through ball from Pugh appeared to fool the approaching Campbell. Brooks ended up having to clear the ball under pressure from behind her goalkeeper, preventing an unlikely opening goal.

Houston went even closer in the 75th minute. Mewis fizzed a rocket towards goal, and though Bledsoe managed to get her hands to it, she could only guide the ball up onto the crossbar. Daly attempted to finish the rebound, but saw the flag go up and her attempt go right to Bledsoe anyway.

Finally, after looking out of gas for a long spell, the Spirit carved out a golden opportunity in the 88th minute. Matthews won the ball off of Prisock, and she combined with fellow substitute Bayley Feist, who fired a hard low pass towards Pugh. Pugh’s first touch was a bit heavy, but she still won the race to the ball, only for her attempt to be denied by a kick-save by Campbell.

The game was suddenly wide open, with the Dash squandering a 5v3 break in the 90th minute, and then having a Mewis shot towards an empty net headed off the line by Sullivan in the 92nd. Within seconds, the Spirit were countering again, but Matthews could only manage a lunging shot from long range that Campbell handled with ease.

Despite the suddenly open play, neither team could find a goal, instead settling for a draw that did major damage to the Spirit’s fading playoff hopes. Washington is still alive, but depending on the outcome of tonight’s Reign FC-Utah Royals match, they could be as far as 7 points out with just 3 games left on their schedule.

The Spirit could probably use a rest, but they’ll have to pick themselves up for their final home game of 2019. They host the North Carolina Courage on Saturday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex, with kickoff scheduled for 7:00pm.

Box Score

NWSL Regular Season (Game 21)
Houston Dash 0
Washington Spirit 0

Dash (433): Jane Campbell; Haley Hanson, Ally Prisock, Amber Brooks, Allysha Chapman (Ariana Calderon 79); Christine Nairn (Cece Kizer 69), Sophie Schmidt, Kristie Mewis; Sofia Huerta, Rachel Daly, Kealia Ohai (C) (Jamia Fields 73)

Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Cali Farquharson (Megan Crosson 59); Jordan DiBiasi (Cheyna Matthews 66), Andi Sullivan (C), Chloe Logarzo; Mal Pugh, Ashley Hatch, Crystal Thomas (Bayley Feist 73)

Dash - Chapman 44
Spirit - Staab 12, Nielsen 66