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Nairn brace delivers Spirit to top of NWSL

Christine Nairn scored her first two goals of the season and the Spirit held off a late Dash flurry to post a 2-1 victory Thursday night in a match rescheduled from Memorial Day weekend. Using the match in hand they owned on the Thorns, the visiting Spirit moved into first place by the three points they earned on the night. Kealia Ohai continued her hot play for the Dash but her 90th minute goal was not enough. The match also saw Ali Krieger play the full 90 minutes as the Spirit right back. The U.S. international met the squad in Houston and became the first Olympian to return to NWSL. Dash keeper Lydia Williams returned to town and sat on the bench but was not in uniform.

Nairn’s goals could not have looked more different and she scored the first one after jogging back onto the field following a shoulder injury. While she was off, Dash left back Becca Moros lost the ball in the Spirit half and after winning the ball Joanna Lohman started a quick counter playing through Cali Farquharson to Cheyna Williams as the Dash–woman advantage and all–became stretched and scrambled back to defend. Williamson took the ball aggressively into the box and Cami Privett shoved her down to draw a penalty. Nairn trotted back on and went right to the spot where her left-footed shot was better than Dash keeper Bianca Henninger who had guessed the right way.

In the 63rd minute Spirit keeper Kelsey Wys launched a mighty punt that was knocked down deep by the Dash. After bouncing off two Dash players and Nairn, Nairn followed the ball into space about 40 yards from goal and took a crack at catching Henninger too high. The shot not only got over Henninger, it sneaked inside the far post to make it 2-0.

The Spirit nearly made it 3-0 late when another Wys long ball was misplayed by the Dash defense and Francisca Ordega sent her chip mere inches wide. The Dash came right back off the ensuing goal kick and worked the ball through midfield where Denise O’Sullivan played Stephanie Ochs deep down the right flank. Ochs crossed to the far post where Ohai ran onto it unmarked and slammed home her fourth goal of the season.

The Spirit (10-3-2, 32 points) became the first team to reach double figures in wins and lead the Thorns by three points in the Shield race and the Flash by six in the race to host a semifinal. All of those teams have five matches to play. The Spirit’s first visit to Orlando looms next Friday. The Dash (3-8-3, 12 pts) remained 13 points adrift of the final playoff spot. They are at Western New York a week from Saturday.


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