Washington Spirit vs. Western New York: Blech

Writing a full-blown recap of last night’s game seems about as pointless as an autopsy on Big Jim from Jim Croce’s You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. He was cut in about 100 places, and he was shot in a couple more. OK, so which of the stab or shooting wounds did it? Um … all of them?

Stats and scores can be deceiving sometimes. I think back to the Spirit’s first two games with Boston, both 1-1 draws. In the first game, they were outplayed, but it took one play in the dying minutes for the Breakers to snag a goal. (I still think Sydney Leroux may have fouled Ali Krieger on the way to getting that goal, but that kind of foul is rarely seen, and the call is rarely made. So anyway.) In the second game, the Spirit outplayed Boston, and the Breakers walked away wiping their brows in relief.

Last night, there was nothing deceiving about the numbers. The Spirit was outshot 20something to 1. Ashlyn Harris wasn’t at her best last week, but she was back in form on this occasion, keeping the score from getting totally out of hand.

Looking back, it would be pretty difficult to imagine the Spirit getting a result in Rochester. The Flash had no injuries; the Spirit started the game without a single player from its preferred back four, though Ali Krieger came back on later. That left a bunch of worn-out midfielders in front of a second-string defense, all against a “physical” Flash team. Lesser mortals wouldn’t have even left the bus and walked onto the field. The Spirit went out there and played, albeit poorly.

I do need to pay respect to one group in Western New York. While everyone on Twitter except Devo complains about the canned music during games, one group is trying to create a legit atmosphere.

I have a soft spot in my heart for fans who try to make a difference. The Spirit fans have been tremendous — not only do they come to the SoccerPlex for the great atmosphere and social benefits, but they sit at home and watch their team through impossible situations on the road. And this group of Flash fans deserves a lot of credit. Maybe, like Kansas City Wizards fans who endured years of artificial atmosphere, they’ll be rewarded down the road.

Back to the Spirit — the debate now is whether they can get a result at all in their last four games. It’s possible, for the following reasons:

– They’re getting healthier. Krieger played a bit in the second half. Robyn Gayle warmed up over the weekend. With Marisa Abegg signed, they can at least field another player who lists “defense” as her job description.

– Sky Blue is also battered and reeling, and the Spirit have two games remaining against them. They played well enough to get a result at Yurcak Field four weeks, and it just didn’t happen.

(Let me offer a quick aside here: Look at the NWSL injury report. Now look at which teams are in form. This is a league with small rosters and a smaller salary cap. On any team, the replacement for an injured national team player is going to be an inexperienced player making a pittance. Good teams don’t make excuses, but good pundits and fans look at the situation for what it is.)

– The Spinal Tap drummer theory. No, the “law of averages” didn’t save poor old Mick Shrimpton. But basic probability suggests that over the course of a season, something good should happen every once in a while. Even atrocious Premier League teams that pay players 20% of the league leaders’ salary budgets manage a few wins somewhere along the way.

– The fans. The last three Spirit games are at home. That’ll provide more motivation that being fed to the lions at Sahlen’s Stadium last night.

I can’t blame the Spirit for not getting up for last night’s game. At home against Chicago, Seattle and Sky Blue? That will be a better test of this team’s pride and professionalism.

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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.

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