FC Kansas City spoil Mallory Pugh's debut, pick up the win against the Washington Spirit
FC Kansas City ground out the win they needed against the Washington Spirit | Source: nwslsoccer.com

With the amount of media attention that Saturday's game between the Washington Spirit and FC Kansas City had, one might have been forgiven for thinking that this was a top-of-the-table clash.

Instead, the focus of the attention was on the debut of US international and now National Women's Soccer League pro, Mallory Pugh, who did not enter the game until the second half.

FCKC were not interested in playing into the narrative and battled out a 1-0 win away from home, their first ever win in Maryland, and their second win of the season. The win sees the away side move up into fifth place while the Spirit stay rooted to the bottom of the table, and desperately hoping that Pugh can kick-start their season once she gels with her new teammates.

Newfield's wonder goal gives FCKC the lead at the break

It was not a game of many chances early one and the best chance of the match fell to Kristie Mewis in the 24th minute of the game. Arielle Ship got by Brittany Taylor easily to get to the byline and swing in a cross that found Mewis unmarked in the box. The Spirit midfielder's aim was a little off and she watched her close range effort cannon off the crossbar before her teammate, Francisca Ordega, sent the rebound over the goal. The chance was an easy one for Mewis, which left goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart completely stranded, and the shot really should have put Washington ahead at that point. The next good look at goal in the game fell to Becky Sauerbrunn in the 30th minute when the FCKC captain met a corner kick at the far post but she nodded her effort just over the bar.

Alexa Newfield scored the only goal of the game | Source: nwslsoccer.com
Alexa Newfield scored the only goal of the game | Source: nwslsoccer.com

The Spirit then had a chance to take the lead again directly from the goal kick after Sauerbrunn's missed header as Lo'eau LaBonta misplayed her pass and Cheyna Williams used her pace to get to the ball before Taylor. The Spirit forward then raced through and tried to beat Barnhart at the near post but the FCKC veteran stood firm and prevented the goal. Washington would pay for passing on those golden opportunities when in the 39th minute, Alexa Newfield struck a powerful effort past Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé and into the far side of the goal to give FCKC the lead. It was a great goal and Labbé could do nothing about it due to the velocity on the shot.

The FCKC veterans step up in the second half to preserve the lead

The Washington Spirit came out into the second half raring to go and put pressure on the FC Kansas City defense from the restart. In the 49th minute, Mewis bent in a dangerous free-kick that Barnhart had to stretch and tip over the bar as it was headed for the far corner of the net. It may not have been intentional by Mewis but it most certainly needed Barnhart to be at her best to stop the Spirit from equalizing so early in the second half.

Pugh then made her first professional appearance in the 54th minute and almost made an instant impact two minutes later when Mewis found her with a nice through ball into the box. Yael Averbuch was on hand to make a great tackle and stop Pugh from being clean through on goal. Next up to step up and prevent a goal was Becky Sauerbrunn in the 61st minute when she put her body in the way of Mewis' direct free-kick and stopped a potential opportunity for the Spirit to draw level.

After that, it became an exercise in slowing down the tempo by FC Kansas City and they were able to do just that while still keep the Spirit on their toes due to the pace up top of Sydney Leroux. The FCKC backline and their goalkeeper stemmed the tide of any Spirit attack and remained steady all game long. The away side held on and picked up a big win for them on the road while the Spirit will look back on their early chances with regret.