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Washington Spirit shut down in 1-0 home loss to Portland Thorns

Portland put on a defensive masterclass to hold off the Spirit at Segra Field

Kelley Piper / Black and Red United

The Washington Spirit suffered a second straight loss tonight, falling 1-0 to the Portland Thorns. The defeat, which is Washington’s fourth in five all-time games at Segra Field, came thanks to a Simone Charley header in the first half, with 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie registering her first pro assist on the play.

Richie Burke made two changes to the side that fell 3-1 in Chicago last weekend. Dorian Bailey, back fit after a minor hamstring issue, returned in the midfield, while Saori Takarada made her return from the Olympics for her first appearance with the Spirit since the end of May. Kumi Yokoyama and Chinyelu Asher made way, while Burke shifted back into a familiar 433 formation.

Washington found themselves under some early pressure, with Moultrie — making her first pro start — hitting the post from 22 yards in the 5th minute. The Spirit had made the initial tackle on Moultrie, but the ball bounced up perfectly for her to improvise a quick strike that skipped off the Segra Field turf before clipping Aubrey Bledsoe’s left-hand post.

The Spirit came the other way with an even bigger chance in the 11th minute. Washington’s midfield forced a turnover just as Portland pushed forward, and suddenly Ashley Sanchez was running in space against a scrambling defense. Sanchez drew Thorns players to her before dishing to the right for Trinity Rodman as the rookie was wide open. Rodman got into the box before beating Bella Bixby with her shot, but Christen Westphal made an incredible diving block behind her to guide the ball over the crossbar just before it crossed the line.

Moultrie may have been denied an early goal, but she picked up her first pro assist in the 29th minute as the Thorns took the lead. A fine build-up from the visitors eventually saw Emily Menges break lines with a pass out to the right for Moultrie, who curled a pinpoint cross in towards the near post. Simone Charley, after spending most of the game playing very wide on the left, slashed in to win the header, nodding it past Bledsoe from nine yards.

The Spirit created little as Portland’s defensive shape stayed strong. Sanchez had a decent look on a 44th minute shot that went right at Bixby, while Portland were unlucky not to enter halftime up 2-0 after Sophia Smith blocked a Paige Nielsen clearance in stoppage time. Smith had a clear path to goal, but fired wide as Bledsoe charged out.

Washington had a decent half-chance as Portland didn’t clear an Andi Sullivan free kick well in the 71st minute, with Nielsen missing just high on a chip from outside the box. The Spirit went much closer two minutes later, as a long throw-in from Sam Staab eventually found its way all the way to the far side. Takarada, coming up from right back, unleashed a thunderbolt from the top of the box, only to be denied by the crossbar.

That proved to be it as far as the Spirit’s attacking inroads, though, as the Thorns showed some impressive tactical play to hold off Washington’s pursuit of an equalizer over the final stages of the game.

At least at the moment, the loss sees the Spirit (5W-3D-5L) fall to 5th place in the NWSL standings. They’ll look to get back to winning ways next Friday night, when they’ll head to Texas to face the Houston Dash in an 8:30pm kickoff.


Box Score

NWSL Regular Season - Game 13
Washington Spirit 0
Portland Thorns 1 (Charley 29)

Lineups:
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Saori Takarada, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Anna Heilferty; Tori Huster (Tara McKeown 76), Andi Sullivan (C), Dorian Bailey; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez (Taylor Aylmer 66), Ashley Hatch

Thorns (4312): Bella Bixby; Christen Westphal (Natalia Kuikka 79), Emily Menges (C), Kelli Hubly, Meghan Klingenberg (Madison Pogarch 67); Celeste Boureille, Angela Salem, Raquel Rodríguez; Olivia Moultrie (Marissa Everett 46); Sophia Smith, Simone Charley (Hannah Betfort 89)

Bookings:
Spirit - Sullivan 65
Thorns - Smith 70