MATCH REPORT: Spirt Beat Blues with Skilled Finishing

Christine Nairn and Angela Salem of the Washington Spirit. Celebrating Nairn’s goal against FC Kansas city.

PHOTOS: Washington Spirit vs. FC Kansas City – April 18th, 2015

By Julie Zovak

The Washington Spirit hosted FC Kansas City at Maureen Hendricks Field Saturday evening in a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) matchup. After falling behind early, the Spirit responded and beat the Blues 3-1 while fending off a solid attack from FCKC.

The Spirit back line was without starting defender Ali Krieger, who suffered a concussion in the season opener against Houston. The defense suffered early when the Blues struck in the 6th minute. Midfielder Heather O’Reilly passed to Lauren Holiday, who gave it right back to the cutting O’Reilly for a chip over Spirit keeper Ashlyn Harris near the far post.

However in the 9th minute Washington was quick to respond when they intercepted a Blues goal kick, and after a couple quick passes for control Christine Nairn drilled a shot from 30 yards outside to even the score at one a piece.

During the first half each team would take a couple more outside shots, but neither side maintained much controlled possession in the middle. Blues forward Amy Rodriguez hit a shot off the post in the 11th minute and right after had a chance on a through ball from the midfield, but there was no angle as Harris came out and blocked the shot.

HOReilly_DelRioThe Spirit responded with a through ball of their own to Crystal Dunn that was blocked by Kansas City keeper Nicole Barnhart. Soon after Dunn got the ball to a wide-open Estefania Banini, but instead of taking a shot she tried to dribble around in the box and missed her opportunity. Laura del Rio had her turn, taking on three Blues defenders and getting off a cross to the far side of the net, but no one was there to finish.

Possession continued to be evenly split between the teams as O’Reilly got off a weak shot and two minutes later Rodriguez had her shot saved by Harris. Kansas City got a lot of follow-up opportunities in the first half, taking nine corner kicks, although they were not able to convert on anything. Neither team demonstrated controlled possession in the middle and between the corner kicks, a couple fouls, and a yellow card issued to the Spirit’s Tori Huster, neither team was able to finish again and put the ball in the back of the net in the first 45.

The whistle had barely been blown to begin the second half when Dunn took the ball up the middle for the Spirit, crossing it over to Del Rio in front of two Blues defenders. Del Rio’s shot was deflected by Barnhart, but Dunn followed up on the ball and netted it for the Spirit’s second goal of the game and their first lead.

The Blues continued to get scoring opportunities, tallying up 13 corner kicks throughout the entire match compared to the Spirit’s three, yet were not able to convert. In the 64th minute, Blues defender Amy LePeilbet mowed over Dunn right outside the box, earning a yellow card and giving the Spirit a free kick. The foul would prove to be fatal, as Nairn stepped up and sent the ball to the middle of the goal, hitting the crossbar and bouncing in for a 3-1 lead.

Washington’s lead was too much for the Blues to overcome – they got a couple more shots on goal, but they were easily saved by Harris. In stoppage time Kansas’ Shea Groom received a yellow card when contesting a ball that Harris had possession of, and that would be the last play of the game, with the final score the Spirit 3, the Blues 1.

Although Kansas City took many more shots than Washington, the Spirit managed to make the most of their scoring opportunities and stabilized enough on defense to hold off the strong attack line of O’Reilly, Holiday, and Rodriguez, all three members of the national team who have a lot of experience playing together. It could be a disturbing trend for Kansas City, who also wildly outshot their opponents last week but lost 1-0 against Sky Blue FC.

Washington next plays on April 26th away against Sky Blue FC at 5 p.m. ET and FC Kansas City will meet against the Seattle Reign on April 23rd at home at 8 p.m. ET.

– MATCH REPORT –

GOALS                                   1          2          F
FC Kansas City                      1          0          0
Washington Spirit                1          2          3

SCORING SUMMARY
Goal    Time      Team                             Goal Scorer                        Assist
1               6         FC Kansas City             Heather O’Reilly                   Lauren Holiday
2              9          Washington                  Christine Nairn                     Angela Salem
3              46        Washington                  Crystal Dunn                         Laura del Rio
4              65        Washington                  Christine Nairn                          –

CAUTIONS AND EJECTIONS
Time   Team                    ##          Player                                Card               Reason
27          Washington         23          Tori Huster                       Yellow              Reckless Foul
56          Washington         6            Angela Salem                   Yellow              Reckless Foul
64          FC Kansas City    17          Amy LePeilbet                  Yellow              Professional Foul
95+        FC Kansas City    2           Shea Groom                      Yellow              Reckless Foul

Attendance: 4,126



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