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Squandered chances and a fluky goal doom Spirit to another loss

Current 1, Spirit 0

Kansas City's Kate Del Fava and Washington's Anna Heilferty battle for the ball during the Current's 1-0 win Sunday at Segra Field. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Washington Spirit has been tripped up in plenty of ways during its 13-match winless streak, from defensive lapses and squandered scoring chances proving costly to player absences and fluky bounces sealing the team’s fate.

In a 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Current on Sunday at Segra Field, Washington was foiled by all of the above.

Still down seven starters because of U.S. national team call-ups, the Spirit flirted with the lead but couldn’t cash in on its flurry of opportunities. When Current substitute Cece Kizer pounced on a ricochet in the 68th minute, the goal came on Kansas City’s first shot on target. And although Spirit rookie Tinaya Alexander drew a penalty kick in second-half stoppage time, Current goalkeeper Adrianna Franch denied her spot kick to preserve the win.

“To some degree, this is the only sport where this happens,” Spirit Coach Kris Ward said. “There’s nowhere else where you dominate possession and things like that and you don’t get the result.”

The Spirit (1-5-6) is second to last in the 12-team NWSL; seventh-place Kansas City (4-4-3) improved to 4-0-2 in its past six. Washington will look for its first win since May 1 — a stretch of 11 regular season games and two Challenge Cup contests — when it hosts the Orlando Pride next Sunday at Audi Field.

“There’s pressure on us as a team,” forward Tara McKeown said, “to finally get a win back.”

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Ward made five changes from the team that lost, 2-1, at the San Diego Wave a week earlier. The Spirit again played without Aubrey Kingsbury, Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez, Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch as they represent the United States at the Concacaf W Championship in Mexico.

The Spirit had the better chances before halftime. The Current net was left exposed in the 17th minute after Franch flailed at a corner kick, but Bayley Feist pushed her headed shot wide. Franch fared better when she snagged Anna Heilferty’s teasing cross in the 31st, shortly before another fluid Spirit buildup ended with Jordan Baggett buzzing a shot over the bar.

Washington came closest to taking the lead shortly after the break. In the 57th minute, McKeown curled a shot that Franch tipped over the bar. Washington’s Amber Brooks then beat Franch with a floating header on the ensuing corner kick, only to see Kate Del Fava head it off the line. Franch again denied McKeown in the 61st minute when she parried the striker’s header.

“I think we were just missing the final piece today,” said forward Averie Collins, who came off the bench in her first appearance since she suffered a torn ACL before the 2021 season. “We just need to work on that final pass, that final finish.”

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Seven minutes after McKeown’s header, the Current got its goal. Del Fava’s cross from the right flank caromed off the leg of Spirit substitute Gaby Vincent before falling to Kizer, who stabbed home a shot from seven yards.

As the Spirit threw numbers into the attack, Alexander repeatedly carved out danger with weaving runs down the right flank. On a stoppage-time spurt, Alexander sliced her way into the box, went down in traffic and earned the penalty. But Franch got down to block Alexander’s subsequent shot, then lunged on the ball as several Spirit players vied for the rebound.

“If it goes in, everyone is singing her praises. And if it doesn’t, then it’s a different story,” Ward said of Alexander. “But those are the burdens that you have to shoulder as a striker, and I’m really proud of her for the way that she attacked the other team and for stepping up and going to take it.”

Note: Ward said it was too early for an evaluation of Spirit left back Julia Roddar, who exited in the 44th minute with an apparent knee injury.