BOYDS, Md. — The Washington Spirit earned a critical three points with a 2-1 victory over FC Kansas City on Wednesday at the Maryland SoccerPlex, with Kerstin Garefrekes and Christine Nairn providing second half goals. Center back Becky Sauerbrunn provided FC Kansas City’s only goal.
The Spirit and FC Kansas City starting lineups offensively looked different than unusual on Wednesday, but for different reasons. The Spirit started without Jodie Taylor, who is currently with the English national team and Lisa De Vanna was on the bench. Kansas City shook up the lineup amid of a difficult stretch of the season, replacing Erika Tymrak and Amy Rodriguez with Frances Silva and Liz Bogus.
Blues Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski gave a rather simple explanation of roster moves postgame.
“We play five games in two weeks that’s right before the playoffs we got to find a way to keep everyone as fresh as possible and not hit a wall or get fatigued and not be able to recover for the playoffs,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re going to get into the playoffs we still haven’t clinched a spot but if we do we want everyone to be as ready as possible.”
Spirit head coach Mark Parsons remarked that the use of De Vanna off the bench was, “tactical and for reasons that are important to us right now.”
Kansas City got some offense from an unlikely source, Sauerbrunn, who scored in the 18th minute. Sauerbrunn made a run forward, played a give-and-go to Sarah Hagen and Sauerbrunn chipped a shot past Ashlyn Harris.
Kansas City controlled much of the first half but couldn’t create many dangerous chances. Twice, Harris had to punch dangerous corner kicks away from goal. The Spirit had some chances in the first half, the best of which came when Kerstin Garefrekes hit the post in the 27th minute.
The pace of the first half seemed slower but the pace and intensity picked up in the second. At the beginning of the second 45 minutes, each side made substitutions. De Vanna entered the game while Katrina Gorry and Erika Tyrmak entered for Kansas City. De Vanna’s entry into the game had an almost immediate impact on the game as the Spirit began to build momentum.
“She just adds a completely different dynamic,” Nairn said about De Vanna. “She was just pressing the heck of them and making those dissecting runs. She’s so freaking fast. She makes our jobs a lot easier by putting high pressure up there so we can move up the field. She totally changed the game when she came in.”
Just four minutes into the second half, the Spirit leveled the game. Nairn sent a corner kick into the area. The ball was almost kicked out of bounds but De Vanna sent the ball back in from near the touchline. Garefrekes was able to head the ball into the left corner past Nicole Barnhart.
Nairn gave the Spirit the lead in the 67th minute with De Vanna once again providing the assist. DeVanna sent the ball to Nairn, who sent a far-post strike into net.
The Blues came close to leveling just two minutes later when Rodriguez got on the end of Leigh Ann Robinson’s cross, but Rodriguez’s header went wide.
About five minutes later, Crystal Dunn nearly extended the Spirit’s lead when she made a run from her right back position and fired a shot the nearly bent into the net but instead bounced off the crossbar.
Kansas City continued to fight for an equalizer but ultimately was unable to find one. Lauren Holiday came close to tying it in the 78th minute on a free kick that bent in and just over and out.
This game had significance for both teams as Kansas City could have clinched a playoff spot and home field advantage for the semifinals with a win. For the Spirit, the three points moves them into third in the ever -ight race for the last two playoff positions.
Both teams will play again on Saturday. Kansas City will face off against Seattle Reign FC at home, while the Spirit will host the Chicago Red Stars.