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Ashley Hatch scores off bench as Spirit rallies to draw home opener

Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch, seen facing Orlando last week, scored the equalizer for Washington against Gotham on Friday. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)
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Faced with the prospect of losing its home opener despite outplaying its opponent, the Washington Spirit rallied in the second half to earn a 1-1 draw with NJ/NY Gotham FC in the NWSL Challenge Cup on Friday at Segra Field.

Trailing at the break, the Spirit inserted reigning NWSL scoring leader Ashley Hatch, who promptly finished the team’s best chance of the night. Ashley Sanchez played a ball into the penalty area, where a defender headed it back toward the edge of the box. The ball landed at the feet of Hatch, who buried it past Gotham goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris in the 61st minute.

Washington found trouble again in the 65th minute, when an aggressive foul earned defender Amber Brooks her second yellow card. But the Spirit ended up creating more scoring chances despite playing the rest of the night with 10 players.

“I think we responded very well,” Spirit captain Andi Sullivan said. “I think that’s something I’m learning about the Spirit is we like the challenge, we like a fight and we like to get riled up. Hopefully we can bring that energy from the start of games … rather than waiting to get riled up from something that happens in the game.”

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In the 72nd minute, Spirit forward Trinity Rodman sent a pass toward the near post for Hatch, who missed just wide. Washington threatened again three minutes later as Hatch took another shot that was caught by Harris.

“In some ways, I think [Hatch is] already past where she was last season, in terms of feeling further along, and I think some of that comes from the [U.S.] national team environment and some of it comes from the confidence we have in her,” Spirit Coach Kris Ward said.

For the rest of the game, the Spirit continued to look like the team operating with an extra player. Julia Roddar and Rodman each put shots on goal, though Harris stopped both without any trouble. Washington also earned three more corners.

The Spirit allowed only one shot on goal in the first half, but it was a successful penalty kick by Kristie Mewis. Washington gave Gotham the chance when Rodman tackled Margaret Purce in the box on a corner kick.

At the other end, the Spirit recorded five shots on goal but couldn’t finish. Washington added five more in the second half to finish with a 10-2 advantage, including 29-8 on all shots.

Washington, the 2021 NWSL champion, is now 0-0-2 in the preseason Challenge Cup after a 0-0 draw last at the Orlando Pride last weekend. The Spirit plays the North Carolina Courage on Wednesday at Audi Field.