The Washington Spirit left it late, but picked up a crucial 2-1 win over the visiting Orlando Pride. A stunner from Marta left the Spirit in trouble, but late goals from Ashley Hatch and Ashley Sanchez — the latter one of the best goals in NWSL this season — helped Washington break a three-game winless streak.
While the pre-game lineup was initially unchanged from the side that drew Houston 2-2 last week, a late change came as Ashley Sanchez was only among the substitutes, with Tara McKeown stepping in on the front line.
Washington had some early looks, with Ashley Hatch nodding a Tori Huster cross right at Ashlyn Harris in the 4th minute the most notable. Dorian Bailey broke in behind on the right in the 12th minute, but with Hatch an option, she went for goal, blazing just wide.
Trinity Rodman went even closer in the 20th minute, escaping Courtney Petersen and shooting at the near post. Harris made the save, but while she was down, Rodman got to the rebound only for her low-angle shot to slap off the crossbar.
Rodman struck the frame of the goal from the other side in the 26th minute. This time, Anna Heilferty danced past Marisa Viggiano to spark the danger. Referee Tori Penso saw nothing wrong with Rodman’s physical challenge on Ali Riley, and from a slightly better angle, the Spirit rookie opted for power only to be denied by the foot of the post. The rebound shot out to McKeown, but the ball arrived so quickly she couldn’t shape to shoot accurately, steering it wide.
McKeown was closer with a 34th minute volley that went just over, while at the other end Bledsoe’s biggest worry was a sneaky shot from far out on the left by Petersen that flew inches over the bar. That changed in the 43rd minute, with NWSL leading scorer Sydney Leroux getting onto Marisa Viggiano pass that evaded Huster. Leroux tried to beat Bledsoe high, but was denied, and then her low shot on the rebound was kicked away, preserving the 0-0 scoreline.
Neither team had created much to start the second half, with Washington looking the more threatening team, when Orlando took the lead on some Marta magic in the 68th minute. Play moved from the left for Jodie Taylor, who laid the ball back to Marta, isolated against Andi Sullivan. Marta quickly cut to her left to open a shot up before lacing the ball in off the post from 23 yards, handing the Pride a stunning lead.
The Spirit took no time to get back level, though, with Hatch scoring her seventh of the season in the 70th minute. A wonderful sequence took the Spirit up the field, but Kelley O’Hara — on as a halftime substitute for the first time since departing for the Olympics — had her cross run too long for Hatch. However, Kylie Strom’s clearance attempt went right to Hatch, who duly deposited a shot past Hatch.
The goal marked Hatch’s sixth goal in eight career games at Audi Field, and her fifth against Orlando in the last six meetings between the sides.
Both teams were pursuing a winner, with the Pride sending nine players forward for a late corner. That came with a price, as the Spirit came up with a wondergoal to win it in the 89th minute. Washington cleared the Pride’s corner and Huster was suddenly in space with Rodman wide open on the right. The veteran sent the youngster on the run, and while Rodman couldn’t quite craft a goal, the ball rebounded to Sanchez — on as a substitute — and the Spirit’s number 10 took over, dipping her shoulder to her right before firing a glorious 20-yard effort past Harris.
The Spirit had to dig deep on some late corner kicks from Orlando, but ultimately secured a badly-needed win after two weeks of off-field turmoil as well as some hard-luck recent results. The Spirit (6W-4D-5L, 22 points) vaulted over Orlando, Chicago, and Gotham and into a tie for 3rd place with OL Reign. They’ll be back at Audi Field next weekend, when they host the North Carolina Courage on Sunday, August 29 in a 5:00pm kickoff.
NWSL Regular Season - Game 15
Washington Spirit 2 (Hatch 70, Sanchez 89)
Orlando Pride 1 (Marta 68)
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Saori Takarada (Camryn Biegalski 65), Paige Nielsen (Emily Sonnett 46), Sam Staab, Anna Heilferty (Kelley O’Hara 46); Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan (C), Dorian Bailey; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, Tara McKeown (Ashley Sanchez 65)
Orlando (4312): Ashlyn Harris (C); Ali Riley (Phoebe McClernon 65), Ali Krieger, Amy Turner, Courtney Petersen (Kylie Strom 65); Marisa Viggiano (Erika Tymrak 68), Meggie Dougherty Howard (Taylor Kornieck 68), Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir; Marta; Jodie Taylor, Sydney Leroux
Spirit - None
Orlando - Turner 46+, Strom 76