The Washington Spirit opened the second half of their season Wednesday night the same way they opened the first—with a 1-1 draw. The first one broke their hearts thanks to a late Breakers goal. This time the Spirit got the late goal, an 87th minute penalty from Diana Matheson, and left the Soccerplex on a high note, even if at the bottom of the table.
“The first three games for me are a really tough three games,” Mark Parsons said after his first game since taking over Sunday for Mike Jorden. “Getting this point early is only going to help us.”
Parsons spoke like a coach just starting out a new season, not the second half of one. “That’s our mentality. I know the position that we’re in and we can mentally say this is the start. But it truly is. And it has to be so we can keep looking forward.”
The draw leaves the Spirit on 7 points (1-7-4) and 15 out of a playoff spot. So the only choice is to play it like a new season after two days of what Parsons called, “like a mini training camp.”
The Spirit entered the night on a five-game losing streak during which they had not scored. And because of a 21-day gap between games (May 25-June 15) they had neither earned a point nor scored a goal since May 16. The goalless drought extended to 543 minutes before Tiffany McCarty won a penalty and Matheson converted with a daring chip down the middle.
Asked if the team would relax now that the futility streak was over, Parsons said, “Yes.”
During training this week Parsons and the team discussed the losing streak and readied themselves for what lay ahead.
“We’ve been preparing ourselves mentally that the point or the three points may not come for a couple of games. We’ve been preparing for that and saying it would take three or four games – and it will performance wise. So this is a real bonus. The performance was extremely pleasing.”
It was pleasing but not perfect. Parsons praised the work of the back line, but they still have difficulty playing the ball productively from the backs to the midfield. And Tori Huster’s first start at left back did not go perfectly as most of FC Kansas City’s most effective attacks went through Huster’s side. When they were in the attacking third there were further problems finding Conny Pohlers.
“I think because she’s such a great player wewant to find her, but we don’t really want to find her back to goal with two center backs up her backside. So we gotta to be more patient. We’re looking and thinkg what a great player let’s give her the ball. We don’t need to. We’ve got other great players in midfield and in wide areas. We’ll find Conny later on.”
Parsons said he addressed this topic in training Monday and said he was pleased with the progress in the match. He said there was less pressure on the central defenders because of it and that players gained more confidence on the ball. “Although we’re not dangerous with it. But that’s going to come.”
The Spirit will get back at it Saturday away to Sky Blue followed by another home match next Wednesday against the Red Stars. Parsons knows it will not be all smooth sailing over the next 10 games as the club seeks stability.
“Over the next three or four weeks there’s going to be games where this goes against us or where we’re 1-0 up and someone comes back. It’s going to be important to see how we recover from them setbacks. Because that’s what happened previously. And it might bring back some odd memories. But tonight you go 1-0 down and show the character and all the work we put it, and we earned our luck a little bit with the chances we got towards the end and a penalty.
“ I will be greedy, but if we nicked one of our one-on-ones earlier before their goal – our confidence went through the roof when we equalized, imagine what it would have done if we went 1-0 up.”
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