Washington Spirit fell to the reigning NWSL champion Portland Thorns 1-0 in a historic first NWSL match at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately for fans in Washington: New Stadium, same Spirit.
Forward Tobin Heath opened scoring in the first half, putting pressure on the Spirit’s backline from the whistle. In the 15th minute, midfielder Hayley Raso lobbed a ball into the air for Heath to bring down. Heath made a few quick fakes and drew defender Taylor Smith off balance. Defender Estelle Johnson slid to defend the shot, but was unable to get in front of the ball in time to stop it.
The Spirit came close to equalizing in the 32nd minute when midfielder Rose Lavelle controlled the ball and rocketed a shot toward the goal. Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch made an acrobatic save to maintain the Thorns’ lead.
In the second half, Portland shifted into a 4-3-2-1 formation to maintain the lead. The three points keep the Thorns’ hopes alive for second place in the playoff positioning, which means home field advantage.
Goalkeepers controlled the match Saturday, with huge saves from both Aubrey Bledsoe an French. Following the opening goal, Spirit goalkeeper Blesdoe made four saves to keep the Spirit hopes alive. On the other side of the pitch Franch made 2 crucial saves, including the agile stop against Lavelle and secured the clean sheet.
The Spirit did show some improvement in its attack, taking nine shots on target compared to just two shots from Washington in its previous match against Utah Royals. Both Lavelle and Pugh, who continues to work back from injury, played 75 minutes.
The Spirit set the wrong kind of records in the loss. Washington now holds the titles for most consecutive losses (10) and overall losses (17) in a season. The Spirit close out the 2018 season against the only team lower on the table in a match against Sky Blue on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. Sky Blue has not won a game this season.
Meanwhile, Portland hosts Seattle Reign in a game with huge playoff implications. The winner grabs the second-place spot in the playoffs.