The Washington Spirit survived an early penalty kick attempt but gave up two second-half goals in 10 minutes in a 2-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars before 2,593 at Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex.
The victory moved the Red Stars (5-6-3, 18 points) to within five points of fourth place in the NWSL standings while the Spirit (1-9-4, 7 points) were unable to secure their first win under new head coach Mark Parsons.
“I think tonight we caught a strong team on a strong night,” Parsons said. “I don’t think the standings are fair enough to Chicago. They’ve got a great group and are organized. It was impressive to see them come here and put us on the back foot.”
Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris dove to her left to deny a spot kick by Inka Grings in the eighth minute after a handball was called on Candace Chapman in the box.
The play inspired the Washington defense, and Ali Krieger battled with Maribel Dominguez in front goal later in the half, ensuring that a close attempt on net trickled wide.
Diana Matheson forced a leaping save from Red Stars goalkeeper Erin McLeod, and Adriana Leon’s rising effort was also pulled in by Harris as the teams went into halftime scoreless.
But Leon used a pair of cutbacks to find space for a curling, left footed shot that bent past Harris in the 62nd minute. Nine minutes later, Leon used a daring overhead kick to keep the ball alive in the Spirit box, and Chicago substitute Ella Masar was open for the finish to double the visitors’ lead.
The Spirit raised their level of urgency on the counterattack, but blocked shots was all they could generate after a quick restart following a foul on Conny Pohlers at the top of the box. Pohlers then found herself with an open chance after Toulouse’s cross was blocked but sent it soaring over the crossbar.
“I think [the character] of everyone stood out, the fact that we’re a group and it’s still very strong,” Parsons said. “We can’t wait for Sunday. This is a big one for the league and a big one for us.”
The Spirit return to action on Sunday, July 14, at Seattle Reign FC, in the NWSL’s debut on FOX Soccer. The match will kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET.