Washington Spirit at Seattle: Battle of the unluckys

I’ll have to confess that I didn’t stay up to watch the Spirit’s late-night game at Seattle last night. I won’t belabor my scheduling problems, but it simply made more sense for me to get up and watch it on demand this morning, thanks to the NWSL’s nice YouTube archive:

And this might be the way I approach games I don’t see myself. I’m not there to gather quotes, and I haven’t seen much reaction to the game except this from Seattle coach Laura Harvey (via SoccerWire’s Liviu Bird):

“We concede stupid goals. We just let teams back into games, and we keep doing it.”

And that sums it up. The Spirit won 4-2, and it wasn’t even Washington’s best performance of the season.

Seattle struck early in each half, and each time, a Washington defender was nowhere in sight. The Reign’s Lindsay Taylor neatly chest-trapped the ball in front of Ingrid Wells and hammered the ball past a stunned Ashlyn Harris in the seventh minute to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. In the second half, with Washington leading 2-1, Seattle’s Christine Nairn played a ball into the air for Teresa Noyola, who was marked only by the 5-foot-0-and-change Diana Matheson.

Credit Taylor and Noyola for terrific finishes, but the Spirit may need to figure out what happened defensively on those plays and a couple more, including one in which Noyola and another Reign player had half the box to themselves. Seattle had too easy of a time getting the ball into empty space.

Seattle, though, has more difficult defensive questions to answer. Losing Katie Deines early in the game didn’t help, but the goal that put Washington in the lead was embarrassing — Michelle Betos made the first save off Lori Lindsey’s free kick, only to see Ali Krieger pop up in front of her for the rebound. Betos made another save, but Krieger still had time to leap and nod the ball into the net. The Reign players in the box simply failed to react.

The best part for the Spirit: The chances were converted. Robyn Gayle found Matheson deep in the Reign’s half of the field, and the Canadian dynamo lashed it past Betos at a tough angle. Tiffany McCarty, who made a good case for remaining in the starting lineup, beat three defenders with one touch and clinically finished. And Tori Huster showed why she’s been getting such (Ow! Ooof!) attention on set pieces, finishing with a glancing header when the Reign defense lost her on a free kick.

The bottom line: Washington is a young team, as we’ve said over and over again. Getting that first win is just the boost of confidence they needed. This was a battle between two teams that have been dealt a good bit of misfortune — take all the players each team had from allocations and the drafts, and you’d make two drastically different starting lineups. (A Garciamendez-Noyola matchup would have been fun!)

Now on to Portland, where it’s virtually impossible to imagine a visiting team wi … wait … what?

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