Marta is here. Alex Morgan is back. Mallory Pugh is here. Estefania Banini is back.
But the chemistry isn’t quite there. And neither is the service from midfield.
Yes, the Washington Spirit and Orlando Pride each scored twice in a 2-2 draw before a crowd of 5,200 that filled the seats, the hill and the concession lines Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex. And yes, we had a couple of moments like this:
(Incidentally, I have no idea how I’m not in that camera shot. I was sitting on the hill today because I brought the little one with me. So I had a perfect view of that bit of Morganinho skill. And a perfect view of the first penalty awarded. Struck me as a little soft. A bit. When Kate Markgraf calls it “just a little bit of a shoulder challenge,” it’s probably not a great call.)
But neither team produced much to trouble the keepers. Morgan was offside a few times. A late flurry from the Spirit padded the stats.
The strangest thing for the Spirit: Tori Huster, usually a game-changer in midfield but not an offensive force, was shooting from all over. Some of the shots, as coach Jim Gabarra said afterwards, were the result of defenders giving her space and trying to contain Franny Ordega, Mallory Pugh and others.
But then there was this:
And she took a ton of shots in pregame warmups. Even more than Cheyna Williams, who helped the Spirit make a late surge when she came on a substitute.
Williams probably should be starting. So should Kristie Mewis. The Spirit could use some possession, and Ordega’s passing was erratic today.
Today was also the return of Ali Krieger to the SoccerPlex. If you love Krieger, you saw a passionate captain and defensive rock. If you don’t, you saw a lot of griping to the ref and some puzzling passes.
And a lot of people think Tom Sermanni needs to find a way to move Krieger from center back to right back. Probably, but center backs seem to be in short supply these days.
Sermanni, ever the gentleman, came over for a quick work with the media even though the Pride needed to fly out of town. He wasn’t thrilled with conceding the lead twice. He is thrilled, though, with the prospect of Morgan getting into form alongside Marta.
Pugh is a little younger and Banini is a little less famous than the Pride attackers. But they showed glimmers of quality today, too. Pugh had a marvelous finish and kept her nerve on a last-minute penalty kick.
So both sides will get better. For the Pride, that might mean a late push for the playoffs. For the Spirit, that might mean eighth place.