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In what was probably their biggest match of the season thus far, the Washington Spirit defeated FC Kansas City 2-1 on Wednesday night. Goals from Kerstin Garefrekes and Christine Nairn secured the win, moving the Spirit (9-8-4) into 3rd place in the NWSL standings. With just three more regular season matches, this puts the Spirit in a good position to qualify for the postseason. FC Kansas City, who are currently in 2nd, drop to 11-6-4.
The Spirit got the action going early by controlling the pace. In the 8th minute, Washington generated a shot and a corner kick, but were unable to capitalize. As play continued through the first half, FC Kansas City built momentum. In the 18th minute, Becky Sauerbrunn drove all the way up the center of the field from her center back position and dished the ball to Sarah Hagen. Hagen played it back to Sauerbrunn, who had continued her run and found herself in behind the Spirit defense. She took a touch and chipped the ball calmly over Ashlyn Harris and into the far post to give FCKC the 1-0 lead.
The Spirit, playing without leading goal scorer Jodie Taylor, were forced to find new avenues of offense. After failing to produce a goal in the first half, the Spirit subbed in Lisa De Vanna for Danesha Adams in an attempt to spark the offense. In the 49th minute, the Spirit found the equalizer. Christine Nairn took a corner, sending the ball into the box. Some misplayed volleys sent the ball towards the goal line, on its way out of bounds. DeVanna saved the ball from going out and crossed it to Garefrekes, who headed it home to level the score at 1-1. It was the first goal for Garefrekes, a mid-season acquisition for the Spirit.
Washington, sensing a chance to take three points from a team they could face in the postseason, took the lead in the 67th minute. Again, Lisa De Vanna was in the middle of the action. DeVanna, like Garefrekes, was a mid-season pickup who has paid dividends as a member of the Spirit. Picking up the ball on the side of the 18 yard box, DeVanna played a perfect pass to Christine Nairn, who controlled and fired a shot past keeper Nicole Barnhart, making the score 2-1. Nairn has five goals on the season.
The Spirit would keep the pressure on FC Kansas City, with their best chance to take a two goal lead coming in the 75th minute, when Crystal Dunn controlled a pass deep in FCKC territory. She cut inside and fired a bending shot that banged off the cross bar. Even without the insurance goal, the Spirit were able to hold on to win 2-1.
The Spirit will look to take this momentum with them into their next match this Saturday against the Chicago Red Stars. The Red Stars currently sit in fifth place in the NWSL standings, but are only three points behind the Spirit and have a game in hand, making this Saturday’s game a must win for both teams.
Chicago (7-6-7) are coming off three ties in a row and did not have to play a mid week game like the Spirit. The Red Stars have the lowest goals against in the league, but have also had trouble scoring. The mid-season addition of Christen Press seems to have sparked their offense, however, and she will certainly be one to watch this Saturday.
This will be the third and final match up of the season between the Spirit and the Red Stars. Both prior meetings resulted in difficult 1-0 victories for the Spirit playing at Benedictine U Sports Complex Stadium in Lisle, IL. The teams will look much different than the last time the two teams met on June 4th as both sides have made significant mid-season additions.
Kick off is slated for 6:30pm August 2nd at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, MD. Tickets are available at tickets.washingtonspirit.com