A late penalty conversion by Diana Matheson cancelled out fantastic headed goal by Samantha Kerr in the 84th minute to tie a bow on a spectacular return of professional women’s soccer to the Mid-Atlantic region Saturday night as the hosts Washington Spirit drew 1-1 with visiting Western New York Flash.
The capacity crowd of 4,569 filled every seat in the house and then some at the Maryland SoccerPlex, with a steady crowd arriving from two hours prior to kickoff and at least a thousand staying late for autographs.
They were not disappointed once the action started on the field, with both teams generating chances throughout the match, including two efforts by Flash forward Abby Wambach in the opening 15 minutes.
The former Washington Freedom member and reigning FIFA World Player of the year crashed a full volley off the bar from six yards early, then was denied from 18 by her USA teammate Ashlyn Harris, who dove to the lower far post to push wide.
After weathering a relentless attack by the visitors for the first 20 minutes, the Spirit began generating their own chances, with week 1 goal scorer Tiffany McCarty often the target. Stephanie Ochs and Diana Matheson were busy again as well.
But it was midfielder turned halfback Tori Huster who stole the show, consistently denying Wambach time with the ball, and breaking up several dangerous opportunities as if she’d played there her entire career.
Halftime substitute Jasmyne Spencer made her pro debut after being picked up on waivers barely two weeks ago, and her work rate paid off drawing the penalty converted by Matheson in the 86th. Much to the delight of the capacity crowd witnessing professional women’s soccer history all over again in
Wambach took a ball to the side of her head from a teammate near midfield around the 80th minute that looked bad, but was shaken off by the star forward. However, by the end of the game, it was clear Wambach was suffering, and she exited the field immediately upon the final whistle for treatment.
The Spirit will remain at the SoccerPlex for the next three weekends, all on Saturdays, all with 7:00 p.m. kickoffs. Next week Sky Blue FC comes to town for the first of two short trips south this season, followed by Portland Thorns FC’s only trip the nations capital area on May 4. The Spirit wrap up their home stand on May 11 with a re-match with Boston Breakers.
The match was streamed live by the Spirit, with a peak of over 2,700 simultaneous viewers at one point, and no breaks in the feed. Match commentator Michael Minnich welcomed former D.C. United Women’s captain Danielle Malagari in her debut as a color analyst to great reviews. A full archive of the stream will be available in the near future.