The Washington Spirit fell 1–0 to the Orlando Pride in their third match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Presented by Secret Deodorant at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, FL.
Spurred on by the home crowd, Orlando threatened Washington’s goal early on. Alex Morgan cut in on Kelley O’Hara, but Emily Sonnett got in front of the shot — both Spirit players returned from international duty and made their debuts. Three minutes later, Sonnett went in the book for an ill-advised tackle on Morgan.
Just under 10 minutes, Andi Sullivan, in her first game of the season, hit a long ball over Orlando’s defense and into the path of Ashley Hatch. With only Ashlyn Harris in net to beat, Hatch powered her shot over the goal. Not a minute later, O’Hara took a left-footed curler that forced a diving save from Harris.
The two saves galvanized the Pride; Morgan slid the ball through to Sydney Leroux, who neatly tucked the ball past a charging Aubrey Bledsoe. The Spirit responded through Trinity Rodman, with the electric rookie darting down the right wing and earning a corner.
Rodman kept things going in the 20th minute, putting Ali Riley on skates en route to another corner for the visitors. On the ensuing set piece, Dorian Bailey took a screamer from the top of the 18 but missed wide.
After Hatch won a set piece from 25 yards out, O’Hara got the ball out wide and hit a peach of a shot into the back of the net, but Washington was deemed to have gone too quickly and were forced to redo the play.
A tactical change at halftime saw the Spirit switch to a back five to deal with Orlando’s forwards. After the Pride dominated in possession for the first 10 minutes of the second, Sonnett found Hatch for a shot on goal, but Harris continued to play spoiler. Tegan McGrady almost had the Olimpico in the 58’ but struck the far post, missing by inches.
With the momentum officially having swung, Harris kept her side in the game, stopping Sullivan from point-blank range and then closing the door on O’Hara’s long-range attempt. The Spirit finally caught a break in the 63’ when Hatch was taken down inside the box. The verdict: penalty Washington. The result: another Harris save, her biggest of the game.
With Harris putting on a goalkeeping clinic on one end, Bledsoe got in on the fun with a stellar save of her own. Marta picked the pocket of Sonnett and played a ball across the face of goal to Morgan, but Bledsoe was quick off her line and alert to the danger.
Among the myriad of second-half substitutes was a familiar face for Spirit fans; Meggie Dougherty Howard, who was sent to Orlando in the Sonnett trade, logged her first minutes against her former club.
The final chance came in the 90+1’. Three substitutes — Julia Roddar, Anna Heilferty and Kumi Yokoyama — connected for a shot on goal, but Harris notched her eighth save of the night to preserve the shutout. And with O’Hara picking up her second yellow of the affair, the Spirit ended the game down one player and one goal.
1495 Sports is proud to bring the following Post Match Press Conference featuring Richie Burke, Emily Sonnett, Aubrey Bledsoe :
For their final group stage fixture of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Presented by Secret Deodorant, the Spirit will face NY/NJ Gotham FC on Tuesday, April 27 at 7 pm ET at Audi Field and will be broadcast live on Paramount+ (USA) and Twitch (INT).
For more information on the Washington Spirit fans are encouraged to click on the link seen here: