The Washington Post

Washington Spirit ties FC Kansas City to end NWSL scoring and points droughts

It took a Diana Matheson penalty kick in the 87th minute to do it, but the Washington Spirit snapped a five-game losing streak — and a 543-minute scoreless streak — with a 1-1 draw with FC Kansas City on Wednesday night in front of 2,467 at Maureen Hendricks Field in Boyds.

In its first National Women’s Soccer League game since the team parted ways with Michael Jorden and promoted Mark Parsons to head coach, it was not immediately apparent that both streaks would come to an end. But after Kansas City stifled the Spirit’s offense for nearly the full 90 minutes, Washington caught a break when Matheson was awarded a questionable penalty kick in the box.

Matheson took advantage of the opportunity and gave her team the goal it sorely needed with a chip shot just under the crossbar and a few feet over the head of diving Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.

“I was just hoping that she would dive to one side like goalies are taught to do,” Matheson said of her uncommon approach to the penalty kick. “Luckily it worked out because it would’ve looked really bad if it didn’t.”

The shot looked good to the Washington offense, which displayed improved creativity early and kept possession in its offensive third for substantial stretches of the first half, but couldn’t connect on a number of promising passes towards the box. Though the breakthrough goal eluded it, the Spirit (1-7-4) weathered a few defensive breakdowns with some well-timed backline bailouts to head to halftime even at 0-0.

The Spirit came closer to the streak-busting goal early in the second half when forward Conny Pohlers found the ball and space in the box and a three-quarters-open goal. Her strike hooked wide.

Then Kansas City (7-4-3) struck. Early in the 55th minute, Erika Tymrak slid herself into space in the Spirit box and guided a ball into the far corner of the goal out of the reach of a diving Harris.

Ten minutes later, the Spirit saw an equalizing chance from Tiffany McCarty evaporate when she rushed a touch from point-blank range and failed to find the back of the net.

So the offensive impotence continued. But the Spirit’s back line held — though at times just barely — and gave Washington a gasp of hope late. That gasp turned to a deep breath of relief when Matheson converted to start the Parsons era with a much-needed point. The draw leaves the Spirit a point behind Seattle at the bottom of the NWSL standings.

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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