Given the amount of work and change that went into its 2014 preparations, the Washington Spirit rightfully was disenchanted with a 3-1 loss to the Western New York Flash in its National Women’s Soccer League opener on Sunday afternoon.
Even with the sport’s greatest scorer, striker Abby Wambach, unavailable for the Flash because of a fractured orbital bone, the new-look Spirit fell well short of expectations in front of 2,306 at Maryland SoccerPlex.
“In the second half, we got away from what we are about and what we want to be about,” Coach Mark Parsons said. “The strong message after the game was we are in another place, we are in another world, we are in another league compared to last year, but it was the same mentality — in a bad way.”
Flash newcomer Vicky Losada, a 23-year-old central midfielder from FC Barcelona’s system and the Spanish national team, was sensational. She scored from distance, set up the second goal and applied the finishing touches with an elegant chip — “world class,” Wambach said of the last strike.
The Spirit, which finished last in the NWSL’s inaugural season last year, did show marked improvement in possession and menace. Beyond the inability to contain Losada, though, Parsons also was troubled by the late effort of his team.
“You’re losing 3-1 at home, and people [should be] fighting to the death; we are happy to hear the whistle,” he said. “That mentality cannot hang around.”
The Flash went ahead in the 15th minute when Losada belted a 30-yarder that streaked over goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
After creating two quality chances and allowing playmaker Diana Matheson and new forward Jodie Taylor to forge a promising partnership, the Spirit drew level five minutes into the second half on an unusual set piece. Christine Nairn’s curling corner kick bounced untouched into the net — an “Olimpico,” as scoring directly off a corner is called in Latin America.
Washington’s good spirit lasted all of four minutes. Losada was the instigator again, serving a free kick from the left side to Brittany Taylor at the back post for a one-timer.
Losada extended the lead in the 67th minute with a marvelous touch. She gathered Adriana Martin’s through ball at the top of the box and, with Harris coming off the line, instinctively chipped it with perfect weight into the upper far-side netting.
“We didn’t turn up today,” Harris said. “It’s a disappointment. We struggled.”
Wambach traveled with the team but, on the advice of the medical staff, was ruled out Saturday night. She watched from the bench, sunglasses hiding the wound suffered in the second half of the U.S. national team’s friendly against China on Thursday in San Diego.
She said she doesn’t need surgery but will see a specialist this week and hopes to return to NWSL duty soon. The U.S. squad will play again May 8 against Canada in Winnipeg.
Turns out the 2013 NWSL runners-up did not need her much Sunday.
“It’s good to get out and get comfortable with each other,” Spirit captain Ali Krieger said. “We have worked so hard in preseason, so we had higher expectations. We’ll be completely fine.”
Washington, which will play six of its first nine at home, will host FC Kansas City (0-1-1) on Saturday night.