In its latest effort to snap an extended winless drought before losing a chunk of the team to international play, the Washington Spirit came out firing against Racing Louisville.
After going into halftime with a two-goal edge, the late-game heroics belonged to the visitors as Louisville’s Nadia Nadim scored a second-half brace that extended the defending NWSL champions’ winless run to 11 games.
“Once is too many times, and it keeps happening,” Spirit captain Andi Sullivan said of the team’s blown leads. “We really need to just continue to do internal dives and ask ourselves why these things are happening and how we can prevent them.”
Louisville (2-4-3) pressed hard in the beginning of the first half but couldn’t break through thanks in part to solid defending from Emily Sonnett. But a smoothly slotted goal from Trinity Rodman in the 34th minute off an assist from Ashley Sanchez gave the home fans something they hadn’t had in weeks — a first-half lead.
Nine minutes later, the Spirit (1-3-6) doubled that margin when Ashley Hatch’s header was blocked by Louisville keeper Katie Lund — right into the path of a charging Maddie Elwell. The rookie forward placed it into the top corner for her first NWSL goal.
But in the second half, Nadim made her presence felt. First, it was a perfect through ball from Jessica McDonald that found her alone in the box in the 66th minute.
The equalizer came a minute from stoppage time, produced by the same pairing. McDonald’s cross from the left side found Nadim’s forehead and then the back of the net. The Loudoun crowd went silent.
“People are pretty pissed,” Sullivan said. “All of us are pissed because we know it’s not good enough.”
The Spirit now enters a lengthy break, with nine players set for international duty.
Seven, including Sullivan, Kelley O’Hara and Rodman, will join the U.S. national team in the buildup to the Concacaf W Championship in Mexico, which could keep them away from the club until late July, causing them to miss three NWSL matches. The Spirit also will lose Karina Rodriguez and Anna Heilferty to the Mexican senior team and U.S. under-23 team, respectively.
To bolster the roster for that three-match run beginning July 3, Washington signed six temporary national team replacement players, two of whom — Audrey Harding and Marissa Sheva — already were on the team as injury replacement players.