Ali Krieger’s return to the Maryland SoccerPlex helped the Spirit draw their largest crowd in over a year, but it was the league’s most decorated individual and the league’s teen sensation that combined for all four goals in a riveting, 2-2 draw. In the end, 19-year old Mallory Pugh hit a 90th minute penalty kick, the second time on the afternoon she scored to level the match after five-time Ballon d’Or winner Marta had put the Pride on top. The 90th minute equalizer marked the first NWSL match this season to be decided in the final minute or stoppage time.
The first goal came 10 minutes in and Marta helped create the penalty before lining up to finish it. Alanna Kennedy played Marta who sent Camila through between Spirit defenders. As she entered the box, Kassey Kallman knocked her to the ground to give away the spot kick. Marta stepped up and nailed it.
Pugh hit back in the 24th minute. A sloppy giveaway by Kristen Edmonds put the Spirit in transition and Estafania Banini worked it left to right going through Fancesca Ordega and then to Pugh. Showing patience that belies her youth, Pugh cut back to put the ball on her left foot and then sent the shot low and back to the right post where it beat Aubrey Bledsoe through a narrow opening.
The Pride went back ahead in the 56th minute at the end of a sequence that began when Dani Weatherholt won a ball high in the midfield and played Steph Catley who got off a hard cross. One failed clearance led to Camila attempting to find space in the box and the ball eventually found Marta who had been mostly an observer to that point. The Brazilian quickly took a juggle and then scored abeautiful goal that split two defenders and just barely eluded Stephanie Labbe. Her 8th goal made her the Pride’s all-time leader and left her one back of Megan Rapinoe in the golden boot race with the Reign still to play later in the day.
The lead lasted until the final minute of normal time. Cheyna Williams crossed to Kristie Mewis who was cut down from behind by Toni Pressley at the top of the six. Pugh took a perfect penalty that needed every inch of its width to get by Labbe who dove the right way.
The point at the death was not enough to lift the Spirit (3-6-3, 12 pts) off the bottom of the table, but they will leave the weekend as the only team yet to play a 13th match. That will come next Saturday in Houston. The Pride (4-5-4, 16 pts) are back home to host FC Kansas City, also Saturday.
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