The Washington Spirit struggled for much of the first hour, but came back to stun Kansas City NWSL 2-1 on two late goals from young stars Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman. The dramatic win makes it five unbeaten for the Spirit in a spell in which they’ve only played at their home stadium once.
While Richie Burke’s lineup contained just one change from the team that drew 1-1 in Chicago last week, it carried quite a bit of news. The club said that Kelley O’Hara was held out of the match for load management purposes, while her USWNT Olympic teammate Emily Sonnett overcame the calf issue that forced her out of the Spirit’s last game to start at center back. Ashley Hatch, after spending most of the week in concussion protocol, was cleared to play, but her starting spot went to Kumi Yokoyama (who made their first start in nearly a month).
However, it was Kansas City — with just three goals all season at kickoff — who struck first. Jessica Silva chased Camryn Biegalski, who seemed to expect the ball to go over the endline in the Spirit’s box, and won the ball. From there, it was easy work: Silva laid the ball back for Amy Rodriguez, who made no mistake with a powerful 3rd minute finish from close range.
A miscue at the back in the 15th minute, with Yokoyama trying a back pass after Sonnett tried to drive out of the back on the ball, nearly made it 2-0. Yokoyama’s pass didn’t get to Bledsoe, giving Rodriguez a golden opportunity, but between Bledsoe rushing out and Sam Staab pressuring, they did just enough to keep the KC captain’s shot out.
Silva went close twice, and Kristen Edmonds fired a promising look wide from 22 yards after a half-clearance. The dynamic at play was clear: Washington were unable to show their normal fluency, allowing Kansas City to get the more direct game they wanted.
Burke saw enough to make two halftime changes, bringing Julia Roddar and Mariana Speckmaier — the latter making her pro debut — in for Biegalski and Yokoyama.
The Spirit had the first shot after the break, with Andi Sullivan firing a loose ball over after a corner bounced her way at the top of the box in the 47th minute, but a 56th minute corner from KC caused more danger, with a deflection off Trinity Rodman requiring Tegan McGrady to clear off the line.
The Spirit were finally starting to get some control over proceedings as KC — playing for the third time in six days — began to fatigue. Finally, after a long spell of typically patient possession, they got level in the 78th minute. Washington waited for KC to start to step their lines forward before Sullivan, from deep, looked long. Her service picked out Rodman, who couldn’t initially control it but did just enough to keep the ball moving.
From there, Ashley Sanchez ran onto it, showing some lovely control to cut past Rachel Corsie and fire low past Smith for her second regular season goal of the year.
Sanchez nearly gave the Spirit the lead in the 82nd minute, as KC (having substituted the injured Smith for Nicole Barnhart) were caught pushing up again. This time, Sanchez looked to lob Barnhart from long distance, but the veteran slapped the ball over the bar at the last second.
Sanchez forced Barnhart into another save, while Burke replaced Staab and McGrady with forwards Tara McKeown and Anna Heilferty as Washington sensed the chance to snatch a late winner.
Kansas City nearly picked one off themselves, with substitute Kate Del Fava shooting just over after a stoppage time corner fell to her. However, just a minute later, the Spirit got what they were pursuing. With the game stretched out, Tori Huster won a ball and pushed it forward for Rodman, who got into the box before slashing past Del Fava and powering a low shot past Barnhart from eight yards.
The win leaves the Spirit (3W-3D-1L) in a tie for 3rd place with the Portland Thorns on 12 points. The Spirit will return to action this coming Friday, July 2, as they host the Chicago Red Stars at Segra Field in the first of three straight home games.
NWSL Regular Season - Game 7
Kansas City NWSL 1 (Rodriguez 3
Washington Spirit 2 (Sanchez 78, Rodman 96+)
KC (433): Abby Smith (Nicole Barnhart 80); Kristen Edmonds, Taylor Leach (Kate Del Fava 68), Rachel Corsie, Mallory Weber; Lo’eau LaBonta (Katie Bowen 69), Gaby Vincent, Victoria Pickett; Darian Jenkins, Amy Rodriguez (C) (Mariana Larroquette 69), Jessica Silva (Kiki Pickett 80)
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Camryn Biegalski (Julia Roddar 46), Emily Sonnett (Paige Nielsen 70), Sam Staab (Tara McKeown 88), Tegan McGrady (Anna Heilferty 88); Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan (C), Dorian Bailey; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, Kumi Yokoyama (Mariana Speckmaier 46)
KC - LaBonta 34, Edmonds 57, Jenkins 73
Spirit - None