Following their first home victory of the season, the Washington Spirit (2-14-4, 10 points) are looking for their first winning streak as they host Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Seattle Reign FC (5-12-3, 18 points) in the Northwest club’s first visit to Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex, live on FOX Soccer (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET). Limited tickets remain and can be found at https://tickets.washingtonspirit.com.
The Spirit are coming off their most inspirational performance of the season, a 1-0 shutout of the Chicago Red Stars in a match suspended twice due to lightning alerts and abandoned before the final whistle due to a midnight curfew.
“The support of the crowd kept us in the match and really took off in the second half,” Spirit head coach Mark Parsons said. “It gave us a lift when we could’ve dropped off. Now that we’re getting things going, similar support on Saturday against Seattle could provide a huge push.”
The Spirit and Reign last met in the NWSL’s national television debut on FOX Soccer on July 14 in Seattle. Diana Matheson grabbed an early lead for visiting Washington with a penalty kick in the 11th minute. But Jessica McDonald scored twice in quick succession (30th and 34th minute) to help the Reign capture a 2-1 victory before 3,855 at Moda Health Pitch at Starfire Stadium.
The teams’ first meeting on May 16 was also in Seattle and was the site of the Spirit’s first franchise win, a 4-2 triumph that was also the team’s highest scoring game of the year. The Reign jumped out to an early lead on a blast from Lindsay Taylor – who was later traded to Washington on July 1 – but the Spirit answered with goals from Matheson and Ali Krieger. In the second half, Seattle’s Teresa Noyola scored to tie the game, but Tiffany McCarty and Tori Huster would respond to secure the Spirit victory.
Mexican national team midfielder Lupita Worbis tallied the game-winning goal against the Red Stars, her first in the NWSL, in the 58th minute with a fantastic piece of skill leading to a give-and-go with Matheson. Playing in front of her parents, who’d recently traveled from Mexico to see their daughter play, Worbis made a 360-degree move to get through a defender, touched the ball ahead and then found Matheson before sprinting through the Red Stars back line. Matheson returned the ball right away, and Worbis calmly placed it between the legs of onrushing Chicago goalkeeper Erin McLeod for Washington’s first goal in three matches.
The game was then stopped in the 77th minute and resumed after a 104-minute delay. It was stopped again in the 81st minute and suspended for another 53 minutes before the game was abandoned. The result was declared final per league rules, giving the Spirit their first home victory of the season.
The Spirit have been much improved on the field under Parsons. Against Chicago, he earned his first victory in nine matches in charge of the team after being promoted from the Spirit Reserves on July 1. Matheson leads Washington with a team-high seven goals and three assists. Lori Lindsey has started 19 of 20 matches and leads Washington with a team-high 1,692 minutes, followed closely by U.S. under-23 national team forward Stephanie Ochs (1,662 minutes). Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (77 saves in 16 games) has ceded her last two starts to backup Chantel Jones (15 saves in four games).
Washington got a lift against Chicago in defense with the second-half insertion of Krieger, and has received a pair of solid starts from center back Marisa Abegg, who signed with the Spirit just before the NWSL roster deadline on July 31. Canadian national team member Robyn Gayle also recently returned to the lineup for the first time since June.
The Reign have cooled off after being one of the hottest teams in NWSL in June and July. Seattle is coming off a 1-0 defeat at the Western New York Flash and has lost two straight games after going 5-1-2 in its previous eight matches. Rapinoe and Jessica Fishlock are tied for the team lead with four goals apiece, trailed by McDonald, Kaylyn Kyle and Christine Nairn, who each have three. In the net Solo has been crucial to the Reign’s turnaround, making 12 starts since her return from offseason wrist surgery and racking up 74 saves, good for fourth in the NWSL.
Following Saturday’s nationally televised match against Seattle, Washington concludes the regular season at Maryland SoccerPlex against Sky Blue FC on Sunday, August 18 (5 p.m. ET).