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Spirit surprise with 3-1 win over FC Kansas City

The Washington Spirit earned a 3-1 win over FC Kansas City on Saturday. (Copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

BOYDS, Md. — Both the Washington Spirit and FC Kansas City were looking to improve on their opening day performances, and it was the Spirit who emerged victorious 3-1 at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday.

Washington was looking to rebound after a disappointing second-half against Western New York. Kansas City, meanwhile, hoped to take advantage of controlling the ball after a tie with Sky Blue.

Kansas City again had the advantage in possession but found themselves unable to convert. The Spirit, meanwhile, had few chances but managed to find the back of the net early to grind out the win.


Diana Matheson opened the Spirit’s account early with a strike in the 4th minute. Crystal Dunn made a nice run into the box and as Kansas City attempted to break up Dunn’s run, but the ball fall to Matheson for the finish.

Kansas City found the equalizer in the 28th minute. Spirit keeper Ashlyn Harris saved Rodriguez’ first attempt but her block fell right to Rodriguez again, and the striker’s second attempt found the upper 90 for her second goal of the year.

The Spirit retook the lead for good in the 38th minute off another Matheson goal. Dunn found Matheson at the top of the box and Matheson rocketed her shot past Kansas City keeper Nicole Barnhart

Christine Nairn added an insurance goal for the Spirit in first half stoppage time. Nairn’s goal was her second in a many weeks off set pieces. This week, Nairn bent a ball around Kansas City wall off a freekick from right outside the box.


WAS: Harris, Krieger, Pressley, Huster, Gayle, Matheson, Nairn, Lindsey, Averbuch, Taylor, Dunn
Subs: Adams (Lindsay) 46’ Angeli (Averbuch) 66’

KC: Barnhart, Robinson, Sauerbrunn, Phillips, Kallman, Tymrak, Holiday, Buczkowski, Mathias, Rodriguez, Bogus
Subs: Williams (Phillips 44’), Silva (Mathias) 66’, Richmond (Bogus) 66’

Ashlyn Harris and the Washington Spirit stymied FC Kansas City on Saturday. (Copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

There were two key early plays in the early going for the Spirit. First, was Matheson’s goal in the 4th minute. After a disappointing game in which head coach Mark Parsons questioned the team’s mentality, the early goal gave the team the momentum and confidence they need to walk away with a win.

Harris’ penalty kick save in 7th minute was also key in the game. Had Holiday’s penalty found the back of the net there, the Spirit’s early efforts would have been null and void.

“It was big time,” Dunn said after the game. “Once she made that save it kind of amped up. It could have easily been 1-1 at that time and even though they got a goal later it definitely put us in a good place.”

Although the game was a good overall team effort, two players were key in the Spirit’s victory. Aside from the penalty kick save, Harris made a number of important saves to preserve Washington’s lead including a full extension save off a shot from Jenna Richmond in the 73rd minute.

The other standout is, of course, Matheson. Last year’s team MVP once again came up big for the Spirit. As Dunn gets more NWSL experience, it be interesting to see how this tandem progresses.

“We can look good and play a beautiful game but if we don’t but the ball in the net none of that matters,” Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski said after the game. He named two areas the team needs to improve before heading to Portland next weekend. Those two things were — eliminate the mistakes in middle of the field; and finishing.

Although their finishing is lacking, the big problem appears to be the midfield. Due to poor play in that part of the pitch, Rodriguez was forced to drop too far back to be effective. In order for Kansas City to be successful, they will need to control play better in this area of the field so that Rodriguez can focus on attacking rather than trying to hold the ball up for her teammates.

The good news for the Blues is that Rodriguez has returned to club competition in form. In two games, she’s netted two goals and she also drew the penalty kick. If they can solve their midfield problem, their fortunes should improve.

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