The Washington Spirit had their chances, but some wasteful finishing allowed Racing Louisville to take a 2-0 win in Kentucky tonight. Racing used goals from Emina Ekic and Cece Kizer, both in the final 15 minutes, while Michelle Betos was credited with ten saves to keep the Spirit at bay.
With week one starter Paige Nielsen out and in the middle of a grueling four games in fourteen-day stretch, Richie Burke made three total changes to the side that picked up a draw in Orlando last week. Emily Sonnett shifted into Paige Nielsen’s spot at center back, while Tori Huster and Dorian Bailey were rested as well, with Tegan McGrady, Julia Roddar, and Kumi Yokoyama stepping into the lineup.
With USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski in attendance, it was barely over one minute into the match before the Spirit should have been up. Ashley Sanchez’s early ball in behind for Trinity Rodman saw the rookie get away from the defense, only to be denied by a fine save from Michelle Betos. Yokoyama ran onto the rebound, but with the net unguarded, her follow-up was blocked by former Spirit defender Brooke Hendrix, saving a sure goal.
After some back-and-forth that didn’t generate a serious look at either end, the Spirit began to settle in in the latter portion of the half. Rodman forced a turnover that gave Roddar a look, only for the Swede’s effort to be blocked. In the 34th minute, Andi Sullivan stepped forward to win the ball as Louisville were lax in their build-out, shuffling the ball to Saori Takarada. The Japanese international faked a shot to lose defenders, but her next touch was a shot that Betos did very well to save.
Louisville finally carved out a real look, with Emily Fox — amid a standout half — cut inside of Takarada to fire a 23 yarder that Aubrey Bledose saved at full stretch. The ensuing corner saw Freja Olofsson unmarked, but she guided it wide, letting the Spirit off the hook.
Burke repeated last week’s halftime sub, bringing Ashley Hatch — who passed a pre-game fitness test on her ankle — in for Takarada. However, the first serious shot from either team came after Sullivan exchanged passes with Yokoyama before firing just wide from long range in the 56th minute.
Betos came up big again just a minute later though, with O’Hara picking her out with a deep cross that Hatch nodded towards the lower corner only for the veteran goalkeeper to do just enough to keep the game scoreless. In the 59th minute, a Spirit corner from Tegan McGrady was steered towards goal, with Yokoyama producing a heel flick to send it past Betos. However, the offside flag went up, denying the Spirit the opener.
The Spirit were again dangerous on two plays in 90 seconds, with Betos punching away a corner just before Sonnett could head home, and then Rodman was unable to fire on goal after Sanchez had danced through the Louisville defense.
The Spirit couldn’t buy a bounce at one end, and then at the other end found themselves with some bad luck. Sam Staab tried to clip the ball around Emina Ekic, but the ball struck Ekic in the hand. Referee Ekaterina Koroleva saw nothing wrong with the play, though, and Ekic slashed inside before firing a precise shot past Bledsoe in the 76th minute, giving Racing the lead.
The Spirit had a pretty strong penalty shout, after Hatch was bundled to the ground, but again got nothing from Koroleva. Louisville would pounce, putting the game away in the 81st minute. A counter, with the Spirit leaving virtually everyone forward, gave Racing a 3v1 that they turned into a goal, as Cece Kizer calmly shot past Bledsoe with no defenders nearby.
Rodman struck the post seconds after that goal, while in the 89th minute substitute Natalie Jacobs — who herself replaced a sub in Bailey, who appeared to pick up a shoulder injury — was robbed by Betos, as the Louisville captain tipped her shot just wide. In stoppage time, another Spirit corner saw Rodman nod the ball past Betos, only for Savannah McCaskill to block the ball on the goal line. The Spirit’s misfortunes continued late into stoppage time, with Rodman needing lengthy treatment after being fouled on a break late on.
The Spirit’s next match, their third game out of four in a two-week span, sees them in action next Wednesday night, as they host the Houston Dash at Segra Field on May 26.
Highlights will be added when they are made available.
NWSL Regular Season - Game 2
Racing Louisville (Ekic 76, Kizer 81
Louisville (4231): Michelle Betos (C); Erin Simon (Neely Martin 64), Brooke Hendrix, Kaleigh Riehl, Emily Fox; Freja Olofsson, Lauren Milliet (Jorian Baucom 74); Katie McClure (Emina Ekic 61), Savannah McCaskill, Yuki Nagasato; Cece Kizer
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Kelley O’Hara Tori Huster 64), Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Andi Sullivan (C), Ashley Sanchez, Julia Roddar (Dorian Bailey 64, Natalie Jacobs 71); Saori Takarada (Ashley Hatch 46), Trinity Rodman, Kumi Yokoyama (Anna Heilferty 64)
Louisville - Baucom 91+, Martin 93+
Spirit - Rodman 46, Bailey 70