Despite tying with the cellar-dwelling Boston Breakers last week, the Washington Spirit came away with three points and in a tie for second in tonight's match against Orlando Pride. After honoring the Orlando Victims before the match and pausing the game to applaud in the 49th minute, the Spirit were able to get the job done.
Active first half
As the first whistle blew, both teams played with high energy. It was a good back and forth on both ends with chances appearing often. The sold-out crowd didn’t have to wait long before a goal was scored. In the ninth minute, Spirit forward Estefania Banini beat defender Toni Pressley to slot her first NWSL goal past Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. With a clean finish from the forward, the home side found themselves leading the game.
Action still picked up after the goal, with Washington defender Shelina Zardosky being awarded a yellow card for a foul against forward Alex Morgan right outside of the 18. Orlando was unable to capitalize not only on that free kick but all three free kicks right outside of the box they had in the first half. Washington wasn’t done scoring on their former keeper just yet this half. After bodying a Pride player off the ball, Francisca Ordega played the ball past the remaining Orlando defender to slot another goal in for the Spirit. They were still creating chances by the time the final whistle blew, sitting comfortably with a two-goal lead as they headed into the locker room.
Settled second half
Washington was still alive at the start of the second half, but the game calmed down as time went on. The home team was able to settle the game and maintain a larger percent of possession, creating lots of chances which forced Harris to make saves. Orlando continued to struggle further, using up all their substitutions in hopes of scoring a goal, but their attempts failed. The Spirit controlled the game for the most part, making it difficult for their visitors to string together more than a few passes and forcing them to play long balls to an unusually quiet Alex Morgan up top.
Despite their best efforts, no goal was scored for either team in the second half. There wasn’t any apparent urgency from the Pride to rally together for at least one goal in the end. Washington warded off any chances from the Pride, finishing the game with a 2-0 win.
What this means for both teams
With the win, Washington climbs the table to tie with the Portland Thorns for second place after the Chicago Red Stars beat Boston Breakers in a whopping 3-0 win. Having kept a clean sheet in the match, Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé earned her fifth shutout of the season, setting a new shutout record for the club. Things are looking bright for the Spirit, a team who sometimes struggles to keep leads. It’s still a mystery as to why Christine Nairn and Crystal Dunn have yet to score, but after tonight maybe it won’t be such a problem after all.
Orlando’s record changes to 4-5-0, keeping them in fifth. The playoffs are just out of reach, and dropping their third game in a row--without scoring a goal as well--starts to raise questions for the club. A bright light for the team tonight comes from rookie Samantha Witteman, who looked more lively than almost every other Orlando player tonight. The forward was taking shot and after shot on goal, as well as hustling back to deny the Spirit goals. If Witteman can break out in the next few games, then having Morgan away for the Olympics won’t be as big of an issue.
The Orlando Pride return home to Camping World Stadium next Thursday, June 23 to face the Houston Dash. The Washington Spirit are home again next Saturday, June 25 to host Sky Blue FC at Maureen Hendricks Field Maryland SoccerPlex.