On a gorgeous Saturday evening at Maureen Hendricks Field in Boyds, the Washington Spirit (3-5-2) defeated the Portland Thorns (4-3-3) 1-0 in front of 4,319 spectators.
Let me reemphasize that statement. The Spirit won! That makes three matches in a row where they have not been defeated this season. This is the best knitting of undefeated games by the Spirit yet this season. As a result, the Spirit is moving up in the standings as their injured players return to form on the pitch and the team continues to gel as an organized unit.
Tori Huster returned to play in the midfield and made an immediate impact. The Portland Thorns had a difficult time getting the ball into the Spirit’s defensive third because the Spirit’s midfield was back to starter form and put up a strong defense and equally strong offense. Head coach Jim Gabarra said of Huster’s return that she is not quite as physical as she was before the injury but having her back and playing again he expects her to return to pre-injury form quickly.
The lone goal of the match was scored unassisted by Francisca Ordega in the 19th minute. Her successful shot on goal started with Ordega gathering the ball on the left side of the field. She dribbled the ball through traffic and let go a heavy shot from the left that blew past Portland keeper Adrianna Franch. Franch was left on the ground after unsuccessfully reaching out to stop the shot. The ball rolled past her, putting the Spirit up 1-0.
In the past Gabarra has said that if the Spirit score in the first 20 minutes of a match, they tend to win the match. Once again it held true. Does that put pressure on the offense to score in the first 20 minutes for fear of losing? Probably not. This is a team that is coming together.
After halftime, the game restarted much like the first half. The Thorns dominated possession of the ball. Post-game statistics showed the Thorns had the ball 62.7 percent of the time but still lost. Thorn possession of the ball was high but production with the possession was not.
Moving the ball into the Spirit’s defensive third required over the top passes to get through the Spirit’s midfield. Once past the midfield, attacks by the Thorns were stymied by the Spirit’s four-person back line of Johnson, Church, Dydesco, and team captain Zadorsky. On the three lonely shots that made it past this group, Labbè was at the ready and stopped every one of them.
Portland Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said it was a tough loss to a dangerous team that has the capability to win any game. Last week the Spirit played the Thorns in Portland and pulled a draw to that match. This week with home field advantage and tremendous support for the Spirit in the stands, Parson’s said it was a tremendous help to the Spirit. He added “We were just a little bit off tonight. We just struggled when we were going into the central final third, and that’s not us.”
Gabarra said he was pleased with the outcome and with the team. He spoke with pride when he spoke of how well the midfield and defense did during the match. He said, “I don’t think they had a possession in our final third or in our half.” referring to the second half of the game.
The Spirit’s next home game will be on July 8th against the Orlando Pride. The game will be televised live on Lifetime starting at 3:30 p.m.
Over in the Major Soccer League, DC United dropped their latest match to the Philadelphia Union, 1-0. Their next home game will be Saturday, July 22nd at RFK Stadium against the Houston Dynamo. Game time is 7 p.m.
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