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Despite red card, Washington Spirit unlucky in 1-1 draw with NJ/NY Gotham FC

Even 10-on-11, the Spirit piled up chances against Gotham, but had to settle for a second straight tie

Kelley Piper / Black and Red United

The Washington Spirit took 29 shots and dominated for long spells, but NJ/NY Gotham FC held on for a 1-1 draw last night at Segra Field. Kristie Mewis gave the visitors a first half lead from the penalty spot before Ashley Hatch equalized. Washington lost Amber Brooks to a red card midway through the second half, but despite a brave attacking display while 10v11, a game-winning goal was tantalizingly out of reach.

Missing Emily Sonnett and Dorian Bailey due to injury, and facing the first game of three in the next nine days, Spirit coach Kris Ward made some alterations to the side that drew 0-0 in Orlando. Brooks came in for Sonnett at center back, while Tinaya Alexander got her first NWSL start, coming in for Ashley Hatch. Taylor Aylmer stepped in for Bailey, playing alongside Andi Sullivan deep in the midfield.

Washington has had trouble settling into games at Segra Field in the past, but set to work immediately. Tara McKeown ran onto a Sullivan ball in behind in the 7th minute, holding off Ali Krieger and getting her shot past Ashlyn Harris, only for it to roll across the goalmouth and wide. Within the next three minutes, Trinity Rodman, McKeown again, and Ashley Sanchez (twice) all had dangerous looks as the Spirit set up shop in the Gotham end.

However, the strangeness of games in Leesburg bubbled up again midway through the half. A rare Gotham attacking spell resulted in a corner, and Caprice Dydasco alertly kept it low, finding Midge Purce inside the area. Purce pushed the ball away from herself, getting position on Rodman, who arrived late and sent both tumbling to the turf.

Referee Alyssa Nichols had little choice but to point to the spot. Mewis, in her Gotham debut, fired the penalty past Aubrey Kingsbury to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The goal gave Gotham a lift, and if there was a period in the game Washington didn’t have the better of, it was during the next ten or so minutes. The Spirit finally started to get back to their earlier tempo in the 39th minute, with Krieger having to intervene to prevent McKeown from having a tap-in on Kelley O’Hara’s cross, while Sanchez and Sullivan forced saves from Harris in the following two minutes.

Washington brought Hatch in at halftime, and — after Purce had a goal called back for being well offside — resumed putting the New Jersey-based visitors under intense pressure. Sanchez produced a highlight reel moment in the 58th minute, breaking out in transition before juking Krieger to the ground. The Spirit couldn’t turn it into a goal, though; Sanchez’s delivery eventually found its way back to her, but the playmaker’s powerful near-post shot was denied by Harris, who needed treatment after the ball appeared to strike her in the head.

That moment served as a warning, but Gotham didn’t heed it. Washington high-pressed from a 61st minute goal kick, forcing a turnover when Aylmer got a toe on Nahomi Kawasumi’s pass. With numbers up, the Spirit moved quickly. Sanchez, Hatch, and Aylmer worked a triangle to open up a cross for Sanchez, and though her cross was nodded down by Taryn Torres, the rebound bounced to Hatch. From 13 yards, the 2021 Golden Boot winner made no mistake, thundering a first-time shot low past Harris to level the scores.

Washington appeared to have all of the momentum, but things suddenly changed in the 65th minute. Kawasumi played a ball from midfield in behind the defense, and Brooks found herself in a footrace with Purce. Brooks initially had the angle, but the ball ran long, Purce appeared to have a shot at taking control. Brooks stuck a leg out to just concede a corner, but made some contact with Purce as well. Nichols, chasing the play, called the foul and gave Brooks her second yellow, reducing the Spirit to 10 players.

Normally that would open the door for a frustrating defeat, but the Spirit simply brushed the issue aside, bringing Karina Rodríguez in for the impressive Aylmer and carving out chances anyway. Rodman picked out Hatch for a golden chance in the 72nd minute after more good work from Sanchez, but Hatch couldn’t quite turn on frame enough to guide the ball home.

McKeown and Hatch both had promising shots shortly afterward, and while Kumi Yokoyama nearly scored on their first game against the Spirit after two seasons in Washington, most of the action took place near Harris’ goal. Julia Roddar pinged a shot on frame after two stepovers in the 81st minute, and the Spirit had Gotham defending for long spells, winning multiple corners and free kicks despite the numerical disadvantage.

Still, despite the attacking bent producing 18 shots after halftime, Washington couldn’t quite find the breakthrough, resulting in a second straight draw. They’ll look to post their first win of 2022 this Wednesday night, as they host the North Carolina Courage at Audi Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm.

Box Score

NWSL Challenge Cup - East Group, Game 2
Washington Spirit 1 (Hatch 61)
NJ/NY Gotham FC 1 (Mewis 23pen)

Spirit (4231): Aubrey Kingsbury; Kelley O’Hara, Amber Brooks, Sam Staab, Julia Roddar (Camryn Biegalski 85); Andi Sullivan (C), Taylor Aylmer (Karina Rodríguez 69); Tinaya Alexander (Ashley Hatch 46), Ashley Sanchez, Trinity Rodman; Tara McKeown (Anna Heilferty 78)

Gotham (4312): Ashlyn Harris; Caprice Dydasco, Ali Krieger (Gina Lewandowski 67), Estelle Johnson, Imani Dorsey (Cameron Tucker 85); McCall Zerboni (C), Taryn Torres, Nahomi Kawasumi (Ellie Jean 78); Kristie Mewis (Paige Monaghan 46); Midge Purce, Ifeoma Onumonu (Kumi Yokoyama 67)

Spirit - Brooks 37, Rodman 55, Brooks 65 (sent off)
Gotham - Lewandowski 91+, Torres 93+