The Washington Spirit found themselves on the opposite end of the result when they took on FC Kansas City for the second time this season, falling 2-1 Sunday night in Kansas City, MO.
The only change to the Spirit lineup, following their 2-1 loss to the Seattle Reign last week, was in the midfield with Veronica Perez starting in place of Yael Averbuch.
FC Kansas City struggled in their mid-week game versus the Western New York Flash without starters Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez and Becky Sauerbrunn, who were gone on US Women’s National Team duty. All three were back in the line up Sunday night, putting Kansas City back to full strength.
FCKC came out strong, holding the territorial advantage and earning three corner kicks in the first ten minutes. They were unable to capitalize on their possession despite the ball bouncing around in the Spirit 18-yard box for several chances.
Although the Spirit struggled to hold possession for long in the first 20 minutes, they did manage to mount a few dangerous counter-attacks.
In the 14th minute, a Jenna Richmond foul on Spirit forward Jodie Taylor set up a free kick from 25 yards out. Christine Nairn stood over the ball and Spirit fans thought perhaps she could repeat the free kick she put past Nicole Barnhart the last time these two teams met. However, Toni Pressley stepped up at the last second and drove it low into the crowd and out of bounds for a goal kick.
In the 33rd minute, Pressley came up strong on a Kansas City corner kick. She played incredible defense on an aggressive FCKC offense as Becky Sauerbrunn shielded the ball out of bounds for a thrown in, before immediately turning and throwing the ball back in over the head of Tori Huster and into the path of Amy Rodriguez. Rodriguez drove the ball in low through the six-yard box and Melissa Henderson, marked by Ali Krieger, was able to get a touch on the ball, but it bounced wide.
This seemed as though it might be the best chance of the half until two minutes later when Leigh Ann Robinson charged down the right wing and drove it low across the ground in front of the Spirit back line at the top of the 18. Henderson picked it up and passed it to Rodriguez, who took a touch past Huster and drove it with her left foot in to the upper left corner of the goal, out of the reach of a diving Ashlyn Harris.
At the start, it appeared the second half would take a much different tone than the first. The Spirit looked to get forward in the first five minutes, and both teams traded fouls early, with Robin Gayle picking up a yellow in the 50th minute.
The game settled down until the 63rd minute when Danesha Adams turned quickly and took a hard shot from 30 yards. The ball took a deflection off Henderson’s thigh and dipped in over Barnhart to even the match.
The game remained 1-1 for less than a minute, when a Pressley pass out of the back ended up at Jen Buczkowski’s feet, who played it past Pressley to Lauren Holiday. Holiday centered to Rodriguez, who struck it with her left foot from the top of the 18 into the bottom left corner past an outstretched Harris.
This is the second game in a row in which that the Spirit have conceded a goal right on the heels of tying up the game. Just as in the game versus the Seattle Reign last weekend, the Spirit were unable to regain momentum. A well-organized Kansas City team allowed the Spirit to keep the ball at the back but stifled any significant attacks. In the dying minutes of the game, a pair of balls floated into the box and a cross cut back across by Taylor all found Barnhart’s hands and she corralled them easily.
With tonight’s result, the Spirit fall to 2-4-0, while Kansas City progresses 3-3-1.
The Spirit play at home next on Saturday, May 17 to take on the Western New York Flash at 6:30pm at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Washington Spirit Starting XI: (GK) Harris, Gayle, Pressley, Huster, Krieger, Perez (Lindsey, 75), Dunn (Averbuch 45), Nairn, Matheson, Taylor, Adams (Cuellar, 68)
Subs not used: Jones, Angeli, Sierra
FC Kansas City Starting XI: (GK) Barnhart, Robinson, Phillips, Sauerbrunn, Kallman (Williams, 45), Mathias, Buczkowski, Holiday, Richmond, Henderson (Silva, 63), Rodriguez
Subs not used: Keane, Tymrak