The Portland Thorns won the possession battle Saturday night, but the Washington Spirit won the defensive war — and made Francisca Ordega’s first-half goal stand up in a 1-0 win at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.
The Spirit’s back line held firm as Portland’s repeated entries were thwarted. The Thorns (4-3-3), who came in averaging more than a goal per game, were shut out for only the second time in a loss. Washington improved to 3-5-2.
Whenever the Thorns tried to shift their attack from the midfield toward the penalty area, the Spirit was ready.
“If they’re going to have possession and just knock long balls forward and try to win second balls, I think we managed to do that,” Spirit Coach Jim Gabarra said. “I don’t think they had a possession in our final third or in our half.”
Portland Coach Mark Parsons wanted his team to be a little more creative on offense.
“They wanted to stay compact, and that’s on all of us,” Parsons said. “We didn’t challenge that back line.”
Portland maintained 62.7 percent possession but rarely threatened Washington goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who had what may have been her calmest game of the season. Portland had 11 shots, but only three were on target.
Washington’s offense found its mark early and maintained its aggressiveness throughout, keeping Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch busy. The Spirit had 16 shots, six of which were on target.
In the 10th minute, forward Havana Solaun had a clear shot at the goal, but her shot was just wide. Two minutes later, off a corner kick, midfielder Tori Huster had a clean header from about 12 yards out but was also off the mark.
The Spirit finally broke through in the 17th minute when Ordega overcame Thorns midfielder Allie Long, taking possession. Sprawled out on the turf, Long saw what happened next: Ordega, with no Thorns player near her, dribbled down the wing, deked defender Emily Sonnett, then floated a perfect shot over a diving Franch, the ball settling into the right corner of the net.
The goal was Ordega’s team-leading fourth.
“Franny is extraordinary physical and very feisty,” Gabarra said. “She’s earned the starting minutes.”
The Spirit continued to attack even after taking the lead. In the 22nd minute, Solaun tried to match Ordega’s goal by firing a 19-yard shot to the goal. The ball hit the post.
In the second half, the Thorns upped their attack but were never really able to get anything in rhythm.
“We were just a little bit off tonight,” Parsons said. “We just struggled when we were going into the central final third, and that’s not us.”