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.