We’ve had a couple of days to digest it, but the Washington Spirit falling 2-0 to Racing Louisville after controlling most of their first-ever game in Kentucky is still giving us indigestion. By itself, putting the home side under siege and ending up with a multi-goal loss is galling, but on the back of several games where the Spirit have done more than enough to get some wins only to end up with one or zero points...oof. It was tough.
With that oof-evoking quality in mind, me (good morning, it’s Jason, hope you’re having a good one) and André are gonna get some things off our chests:
TWENTY-NINE SHOTS.....no goals
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Spirit dominated possession, took a lot of shots, but couldn’t sco-...ah, so you have. In fairness, I would much rather my team demonstrate an ability to keep the ball and create chances against any opposition, but it’s impossible to not be frustrated. So far this year, even extending back into the Challenge Cup, the Spirit have seemed to also have to deal with the added treat of keepers and defenders flinging their bodies around like it’s the UWCL Final.
Of course the solutions are what anyone would suggest: Be more clinical, shoot earlier, hit the target, luck will turn. And sure, I think all of those things should be done. However, I think it’s also time (yes, after two regular season games) that we start looking for solutions via alternative methods, because there’s more than enough evidence to suggest a curse. I’m not sure if sage can be purchased by the pound, but as soon as I finish writing I’m going to find out.
On a more serious note, adding a pure finisher would instantly help. With Bunny Shaw likely to remain in Europe, and no one else seeming close until after the Olympics, rookie forward Tara McKeown may get ample opportunity to prove she can be that player. Let us smudge. — André Carlisle
Stay the course
You just read about the whole 29 shot thing, and this is gonna just make it worse:
And if that doesn’t get you, this will:
This is the best summary of what's going on with the Spirit right now. Throw in last night and it's 2 goals from 10.09 xG in 5 games in this model. Check the full thread for more. https://t.co/QkElQWMQGb— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) May 22, 2021
The models disagree on the finer details, but ultimately we’re talking about the Spirit scoring two goals in reality, while creating enough chances that models based on many, many thousands of games indicate would expect to be enough to create ten.
Score ten goals in five games? You’re probably advancing to the Challenge Cup final, given the wobbly nature of the entire East division in that tournament, and we’re probably looking at four or six points in the regular season. Score two? Well, the Spirit are in 8th place right now, so there you go.
So the Spirit are maddening right now, but it’s precisely because they’re doing most of the things they should be doing right. In times like this it’s easy to advocate for big changes, but fans and players alike have to have faith in how unlikely it is to string these games together and not score. If Washington keeps at it, the correction to match these models is probably coming soon. — Jason Anderson
Sanchez getting more comfortable at the 10
A bright spot in the game was witnessing the development of Ashley Sanchez in the #10 role, as she had her best-ever outing in the position. Sanchez has amazing 1v1 dribbling ability, but playing as an attacking midfielder, it’s an adjustment to configure the same agility and ball control to get by players, since there’s less time and space than on the wing.
On the left is Sanchez’s passing map from the night.
Sanchez seems to be figuring it out though. Against Louisville, she displayed a lot of good subtle movements to shift the ball out of the path of a defenders, and keep them off balance by varying her speed. She also grew in her awareness to find the pockets of space that opened a passing lane and would allow her to quickly turn and dribble at the back line. As a result, Sanchez was dangerous all night and consistently found players in space in dangerous areas.
That’s perhaps why the evening is even more frustrating. There were many good performances on the pitch from key Spirit players, and it’s the cruelty of the sport that the takeaway is a 0-2 score line, a brilliant goal from a hometown kid, and Racing’s first NWSL win. — AC
Emily Fox is a menace
Louisville had the best story of the night with hometown star Emina Ekic going on a lovely run and whipping in a curler for the first goal, but it was Emily Fox who was their best player. The rookie left back seemed to be playing multiple positions out there and was a terror for the Spirit up and down the entire left side of the pitch.
It’s not often we choose to spotlight an opposing player in one of these, but Fox’s defensive performance is more than deserving. — AC