Washington Spirit vs. Boston: Defenders down

Hard to imagine a game more emblematic of the Spirit’s season:

– A defender was injured.

– The officials were atrocious, though they probably didn’t affect the outcome too terribly.

– The result was worse than the Spirit deserved.

– The fans stuck with the team. Take away the storms that magically cleared just before game time but killed their walk-up crowd, and the team would’ve drawn a respectable 3,000 or 3,500. The Spirit has one more midweek game, then two weekend games with a lot of drawing power — Seattle (Solo, Rapinoe) and Sky Blue (season finale). With decent weather, I’d expect 4,000 for each of those.

We had some debate last night about how much of a role luck has played in the Spirit’s season. I’d look at it this way: Let’s say the Spirit’s luck was even in the first six games (debatable, but let’s say it for sake of argument). They were 1-2-3 for six points. Extrapolate that over 18 games, and they would have 18 points — tied with Seattle for seventh place.

Instead, they’re 0-5-1 since Mark Parsons took over. He warned that getting the team on track would take a couple of games. Then his entire starting defense was injured.

This team could be starting Harris, Gayle, Chapman, Pressley, Krieger, Huster, Lindsey, Matheson, Pohlers, Ochs and Miller. Maybe even Jordan Angeli. An injury or two? Bring in Toulouse or Roberts.

Last night’s starters? Harris, Toulouse, Huster, Chapman, Taylor, Roberts, Lindsey, Matheson, Pohlers, Ochs, Spencer.

The youngsters and the misplaced players weren’t bad. The Spirit’s first goal — the first in the run of play since D.C. was covered in spring pollen — came through a superb, composed pass from Jasmyne Spencer, who had her best game.

Then within five minutes, Chapman was out. Boston scored the equalizer before the Spirit could replace her with Holly King.

Lindsay Taylor, a top scorer in college, had never played defense in a game before last night. King is at least a defensive midfielder. Each of them had a few strong plays at the back. But Heather O’Reilly is a handful for any defender. In the first Spirit-Breakers game, she ran at the relatively inexperienced Kika Toulouse on the Spirit’s left. In this game, she left Toulouse alone and ran on the other side of the field. That’s almost unfair.

At halftime, the Spirit had every reason to feel they were in the game. And they did indeed get that second goal, again from the run of play and finally getting that well-deserved opener from Conny Pohlers. But the third goal early in the second half was the dagger, with Ashlyn Harris bobbling a save and failing to collect it before Rhian Wilkinson ran in to pop it into the net.

Make no mistake — the Breakers deserved this win. They’re inconsistent but not bad. They outhustled the Spirit for the second and third goals. O’Reilly is still a fantastic winger. While the Spirit set up as many chances as the Breakers in the first half, Parsons lamented that the Breakers were making his team chase the ball. He doesn’t like that. Lisa Cole had to be thrilled. But as the Spirit’s record doesn’t reflect the talent and effort on display, 5-2 doesn’t reflect this game.

I asked Cat Whitehill what happened on her goal, the Breakers’ fifth. “It was luck,” she said.

Maybe the Spirit will know what that feels like one day.

Published by

Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

7 thoughts on “Washington Spirit vs. Boston: Defenders down”

  1. Blaming “bad luck” for the Spirit’s record is too easy. Chicago and Seattle had their share of so-called “bad luck,” too. Yet these teams found a way to adjust and improve their records. The Spirit management has not shown similar capability.

  2. I agree with Terry L. above… yes, the Spirit team has a bad luck with injuries …etc… no one can deny that… but how the organization has responded to that has been well… they didn’t really. Now whether that is to blame on league rules about roster limits and injured players, on the lack of available seasoned defenders/midfielders to sign, or on just incompetence, that is the question. The players themselves are doing all they can and giving their all (well most of them anyways) every match so they’ll get the fans support. But failure is happening somewhere above.

  3. I don’t think I blamed the entire record on injuries and bad luck — I’m pretty sure I didn’t. They might still be in last, just not as far in last.

    As for management responding — they did bring in Pohlers and Pressley, and they changed the coach. They haven’t quite been sitting on their hands. But we can’t judge how effective these moves have been because the team now, even if they grab whatever W-League/WPSL defender they can find just to finish the season, is so badly battered.

    1. You did not put all the blame of injuries and bad luck, but I think it is fair to say that they were the emphasis of the article, and you did not discuss other factors plaguing the team. My point is that other teams faced adversity and yet they found a way to overcome their problems. Yes, they brought in Pohlers. But was this a smart or an excellent choice? yes, a new coach was brought in, but was this the best approach? In contrast other teams have been much more active and successful bringing in new players during the season. I wonder if consideration was given, for instance, to trading Harris (a personal favorite of mine) to obtain a high quality offensive midfielder or a striker? Jones performed very well before Harris arrived and I think goalkeeping would not have been much worse with her. Or, was consideration given to unloading McCarty, who looked poor in preseason and continues to be unimpressive, in order to get a competent striker. Clearly injuries have challenged the Spirit, but management has failed to deal with it satisfactorily, in my opinion. The Spirit started as a W-league level team and management really has not done anything over the months to change that situation.

  4. I think that’s fair enough. We may not know how much effort the Spirit put into making some of the deals you suggested, but in general, I like seeing specifics. (Pardon the pun.)

  5. Harris would only have been able to be traded for another US allocated player, and none of the other teams that have players we would want in exchange/worth the trade don’t need another starting GK… as for Jones, yes she has been solid in that Portland match, but you can’t base her performance on only one match, particularly when pre-season has not been a highlight from her. And it would have been a dangerous situation to have a rookie GK as your starting GK and then having to find another rookie GK as your second GK… They have quite a few midfielders they could have traded instead. McCarty’s trade value may have been high early on, but has significantly decreased since then. It was a risk they took, to see if she would blossom as the season progressed. That one was a hard decision as well and unfortunately for them, it didn’t capitalize.

  6. I hope you are able to get into the details of the Spirit’s decision making in your book on the Spirit’s first season. It appears to me that the folks with W league experience did not anticipate the higher level of play in the NWSL. Was there anyone who had professional soccer experience involved in forming the Spirit?

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