Despite losing captain Andi Sullivan to a second half red card, the Washington Spirit came up with a 2-1 win over the Houston Dash tonight in Texas. The Spirit, playing what was technically a home game in Houston due to construction at Segra Field, stunned the Dash with goals from Ashley Sanchez and Ashley Hatch after falling behind early.
Washington held the ball for virtually all of the first five minutes, but Aubrey Bledsoe had to make a big save early as a typically quick Dash counter up the wing created danger. Nichelle Prince’s cross found Rachel Daly, apparently onside, but the England international stumbled, buying extra time for Bledsoe to set up for a kick-save.
The Spirit didn’t take the warning, falling down in the 9th minute. Andi Sullivan was caught in two minds, losing the ball to Gabby Seiler in the Spirit half. Houston surged forward, with Daly moving the ball over to Prince. Prince found Shea Groom on the right side of the box, and she picked out Daly’s late-arriving run for an easy headed finish from close range.
Washington nearly got level in the 11th minute, with an intricate attack ending with Kelley O’Hara shooting just wide, but then almost immediately afterward needed Sam Staab to produce a spectacular tackle to stop Prince from having a shot in a dangerous position.
The Spirit settled down a bit after that, getting level through Sanchez in the 21st minute. Washington had to battle for it, winning two consecutive 50/50s to push play forward. The second, from Sullivan, moved the ball towards Ashley Hatch, who smartly passed first time to the right for Sanchez, who had plenty of space as the Dash collapsed towards Hatch too late to intervene. Sanchez sold Jane Campbell on a low shot but fired high into the roof of the net for the equalizer.
The Dash had a major complaint in the 26th minute, as Gabby Seiler tapped the rebound of a Prince shot in from close range, only to be called offside. Houston were livid, but replays were inconclusive, and referee Natalie Simon waved away their arguments.
A slick passing sequence down the left for the Spirit saw O’Hara feed Rodman for a shot that Campbell tipped off the post, though the offside flag came up again in the 35th minute. Prince had Houston’s next look, nearly sending a cross in on accident, while Huster took advantage of some hesitant Dash defending to shoot just wide from long range in the 42nd minute.
Rodman fired just over the bar to start the second half, but the Spirit got early bad news to start this half just as they did in the first half. Sullivan’s attempt to clear at the edge of the box, with Seiler and Daly colliding as well, ended with multiple players on the ground. Simon, after taking a moment, called a foul and gave the Spirit captain her second yellow of the night in the 50th minute.
The Spirit actually had the first couple of half-chances after the red card, but Houston once again had a goal called back for offside after some sloppy work inside Washington’s penalty area handed them possession in the 63rd minute.
Burke brought Natalie Jacobs into the game to adjust to Sullivan’s dismissal, and while her job was mostly to take care of defending in the midfield, she went above and beyond. The Dash were slow to get back into shape after a corner was caught by Bledsoe, and Jacobs picked her head up to play an inch-perfect long ball over the top. Hatch sprinted onto it, staying onside, and beat Campbell to the ball, rounding her before rolling a shot home, putting the 10-player Spirit into the lead.
Houston were stunned, and in fact the Spirit had the ball in the back of the net again in the 74th minute, only for the offside flag to deny Trinity Rodman after a lovely pass from another substitute in Jordan DiBiasi.
Finally, a double sub from James Clarkson seemed to wake Houston up, with the Spirit finishing the game under intense pressure. Bledsoe had to make a stop following a scramble on a corner that handed the Dash a chance from close range, while Huster made a strong tackle inside the box to deny substitute Maegan Rosa early in stoppage time.
Despite a gutsy win, the Spirit won’t have time to rest on their laurels, as they face another game this weekend. They’ll fly all the way to Washington state to face OL Reign this Sunday at 7:00pm Eastern.
Highlights will be added when they are made available.
NWSL Regular Season - Game 3
Washington Spirit 2 (Sanchez 21, Hatch 70)
Houston Dash 1 (Daly 9)
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Kelley O’Hara; Andi Sullivan (C), Ashley Sanchez (Jordan DiBiasi 65), Julia Roddar (Camryn Biegalski 85); Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch (Anna Heilferty 85), Tara McKeown (Natalie Jacobs 54)
Houston (4141): Jane Campbell; Haley Hanson (Maegan Rosa 84), Megan Oyster, Katie Naughton, Allysha Chapman; Sophie Schmidt; Nichelle Prince, Shea Groom, Gabby Seiler (Emily Ogle 76), Bri Visalli (Veronica Latsko 76); Rachel Daly (C)
Spirit - Sullivan 44, Sullivan 50 (sent off), Hatch 80
Houston - Hanson 45, Groom 75, Prince 95+