A Washington Spirit match offers a fun atmosphere in a snug suburban stadium and features players who can’t stop signing autographs and interacting with their young fans. The public has responded, turning out in sizable numbers and witnessing competitive games.
What is lacking, though, is a successful home team.
The Spirit was overwhelmed Saturday night by two of the world’s top attackers and remained winless after dropping a 2-1 decision to the unbeaten Portland Thorns before 5,011 at Maryland SoccerPlex. The crowd was about 500 more than the normal capacity.
The Spirit is averaging 4,230 after three home dates, well beyond the ownership’s goal of 3,000.
The primary draw on this night was Thorns forward Alex Morgan, the U.S. national team superstar from the Women’s World Cup and Olympics. She converted a penalty kick in the 12th minute and teammate Nikki Washington scored early in the second half before Diana Matheson put away a penalty in the 87th minute for the Spirit (0-2-2).
Washington is 0-2-1 at home and has yet to score more than once in any match.
“We’re getting a little better each week,” Coach Michael Jorden said. “We have proven we can play with everybody. We just have to get it done and we’ve got to finish and create more chances.”
Jorden also cited cohesion and inexperience. His starting attack included three players recently out of college. By comparison, Portland featured the elite tandem of Morgan and Christine Sinclair, who has scored 145 goals for the Canadian national team.
The Spirit lacked menace and generated few opportunities until the late stages.
Portland (3-0-1) went ahead on Morgan’s penalty kick, a low effort into the left side. She had drawn the penalty as well. Four retreating defenders contained her in an unthreatening spot just inside the box, but Domenica Hodak brought her down.
Morgan almost doubled the lead in the 20th minute, but after taking advantage of a giveaway in the Spirit’s box, she hit the near post from 15 yards.
Late in the half, the Spirit drew Morgan’s ire on consecutive midfield challenges by Hodak and Matheson. Morgan and Matheson exchanged words and had to be separated.
“I was a little fed up,” Morgan said. “I am not going to lie: Sometimes I can get a little feisty.”
The Spirit’s Tiffany McCarty had an immediate impact upon entering at the start of the second half, beating three defenders and forcing Karina LeBlanc to make a save on an angled shot.
But the Thorns countered two minutes later when Washington placed a 20-yarder beyond Ashlyn Harris’s reach and into the lower far corner.
Late in the game Matheson was tripped in the box and converted the ensuing penalty kick for her third goal of the season, but the Spirit didn’t threaten again.
“It’s been tough, result-wise,” Spirit defender Robyn Gayle said. “We have had some great sequences of play and we’re moving the ball very well. We have a young team and we are still growing together as a group. So there are a lot of great things to build on. We’re not discouraged. The spirit is very much there.”
Washington will host the Boston Breakers (2-0-1) next Saturday night.