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The Washington Spirit (3-14-5, 14 points) concluded its inaugural NWSL season with three-match unbeaten streak, closing with a 1-1 draw against playoff-bound Sky Blue FC (10-6-6, 36 points) before 4,241 at Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex.
Stephanie Ochs scored for the Spirit with her first goal of the season in the 40th minute off a feed from Lupita Worbis. Taylor Lytle equalized for Sky Blue in the 83rd minute, cleaning up a late corner kick by the visitors.
After the game concluded, the players and coaching staff took a lap of appreciation around Hendricks Field to salute the fans who’d supported them throughout the season. Defender Ali Krieger and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (four saves) spent more than an hour afterward signing autographs until the daylight had faded almost completely following the late afternoon match.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to give up a goal at the end,” Krieger said. “But to end the year on a high note definitely gives us momentum going into next season.”
The match was more evidence that the Spirit turned the corner over the final portion of the season following more than two months of frustration and a 13-match winless streak.
Spirit coach Mark Parsons went with the same starting lineup for the second straight match. In front of Harris, Krieger, Tori Huster, Marisa Abegg and Robyn Gayle formed the back line. Worbis, Julia Roberts and Lori Lindsey opened in the midfield while Ochs, Diana Matheson and Conny Pohlers started at forward.
Ochs showed her determination to finally get on the scoresheet early with a cutback on the left side of the penalty box in the 26th minute. She fired at Brittany Cameron from a narrow angle, but the Sky Blue goalkeeper was equal to the save.
Monica Ocampo, who scored the game winner in each of the teams’ previous two encounters, was held at bay by the Spirit defense, including Huster and Abegg, who were responsible for repeated defensive headers.
Krieger started the sequence that led to the opening goal, cutting inside from her right back spot and sending pass directly forward to Worbis at the corner of the box. The Mexican international spotted Ochs darting toward the center and placed the ball neatly in her path. Ochs, who’d stayed after at practice all week to work on finishing, calmly drove the ball home with her left foot.
The Spirit pressed to double the lead in the second half. Although they got a dose of inspiration from substitutes Tiffany McCarty and Jasmyne Spencer, they were undone by 12 offsides calls.
Lytle took advantage of Washington’s wasted chances, bundling home in traffic from close range, but it wasn’t enough to diminish the improved outlook for the Spirit following their late-season performances.
Season ticket deposits for the 2014 season are now being accepted. A fully refundable $25 deposit will hold a place in the seat selection line for next season, entitling the holder to the opportunity to choose a seat when the tickets themselves go on sale later this month, with seat selections being offered in the order that the deposits are received. More information can be found at WashingtonSpirit.com/SeasonTickets.