The Washington Spirit rocketed back towards the top of the NWSL table with a 2-0 road win over Racing Louisville in front of 6,422. Ashley Hatch continued her stellar scoring run, moving atop the league scoring chart with her sixth goal, while Sam Staab added a goal in the second half to secure the win.
With Staab’s red card from the previous match overturned on appeal, Richie Burke escaped having to shuffle his lineup. As such, the Spirit came into the match with the same starting XI that spent all of five minutes together before that early ejection. Ashley Sanchez dropped from her false 9 position into midfield, with Tori Huster on the bench still recovering from an oblique injury. Rookies Tara McKeown and Trinity Rodman joined Ashley Hatch to round out the attack.
The Spirit were looking to extract some revenge from their first meeting with Louisville, in which Washington took twenty-nine shots but still fell to a defeat on two late Racing goals. It took just five minutes for the Spirit to show that they had no interest in a repeat performance. Louisville midfielder Freya Olofsson was put under pressure by Sanchez, who forced a heavy touch and took control of the ball to slide a pass to McKeown. The rookie then played Hatch in for a shot that beat Michelle Betos low and into the bottom far corner.
Hatch’s goal propelled her to the top of the NWSL scoring charts with six on the season, one goal ahead of Sydney Leroux and Lynn Williams.
Racing responded to the goal with a good spell of pressure that forced some loose passes and created a couple dangerous opportunities. Thankfully, some last-ditch defending and good goalkeeping from Aubrey Bledsoe kept the Spirit ahead.
The Spirit withstood the pressure and picked up on Racing’s patterns enough to stay in shape and force passes into high pressure areas, causing quick turnovers. Unfortunately none of them led to another significant chance, but the Spirit are showing the ability to be dangerous without the ball.
A lofted chip behind the Spirit back line was deemed offside before a shot could come, and both Yuki Nagasato and Cece Kizer drew offside flags as the half wore on. In between, there were moments of brilliant individual defending by Paige Nielsen, who stretched to deflect a lofted through ball, while Tegan McGrady repelled crosses after being isolated 1v1 with Savannah McCaskill.
Taylor Aylmer, signed as a national team replacement player during the Olympics, replaced Dorian Bailey in midfield at the start of the second half, making her Spirit debut.
The Spirit threatened to strike quickly at the start of the second half, as Rodman took possession in midfield before sparking a 2v1 with Ashley Sanchez. The two traded passes to get to the edge of the box, but a heavy cutback from Rodman gave Louisville a chance to recover and clear the ball away. Moments later the Spirit had another opportunity to double the lead, with Hatch shooting from the top of the box, but her shot smacked off the bar and back into play.
Washington finally doubled their lead in the 58th minute. A corner to the back post was lofted back into the goalmouth by Aylmer, and Staab won the header over the pack, nodding past Betos from close range, giving the Spirit a 2-0 edge and giving Staab a bit of poetic justice after last week’s debacle and incorrect sending off
Washington did well from there, despite having to spend long spells without the ball. The Spirit blocked five of Racing’s nine second-half shot attempts, and even Nadia Nadim’s Louisville debut was not enough to break Washington’s defensive wall.
The win takes the Spirit (5W-3D-3L) up to 3rd place in the NWSL on 18 points, one point behind Gotham and four off of league-leading Portland. Washington will look to turn this into a winning streak next Sunday, August 1, as they face the Chicago Red Stars at SeatGeek Stadium in a 6:00pm Eastern kickoff.
NWSL Regular Season - Game 11
Washington Spirit 2 (Hatch 5, Staab 58)
Racing Louisville 0
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Anna Heilferty, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Andi Sullivan (C), Ashley Sanchez, Dorian Bailey (Tayler Aylmer 46); Trinity Rodman, Tara McKeown (Karina Rodriguez 88), Ashley Hatch
Racing (4231): Michelle Betos (C); Erin Simon (Julia Ashley 86), Gemma Bonner, Nealy Martin, Emily Fox; Savannah McCaskill, Freja Olofsson (Cheyna Matthews 69); Lauren Milliet (Nadia Nadim 55), Yuki Nagasato, Cece Kizer; Ebony Salmon (Katie McClure 69)
Spirit - Bledsoe 91+
Racing - None