Washington yields late goal; playo≠ hopes in jeopardy
SPIRIT 2, BREAKERS 2
In the 79th minute of the Washington Spirit’s match against the Boston Breakers on Saturday, a silence fell over the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds. Boston forward Adriana Leon, who had scored earlier in the game, sprinted ahead of Washington’s defenders and received a pass from forward Ifeoma Onumonu. Leon had possession in the center of the box.
Fifteen minutes earlier, Washington had scored to take a onegoal lead. Now the outcome would depend on whether goalkeeper DiDi Haracic could make a save. She didn’t. Haracic slid toward Leon, hoping to pressure her shot, but Leon fired the ball under Haracic’s body, sealing a 2-2 tie in front of 3,722 fans.
The Spirit defenders looked for an offside call but didn’t get one.
“It was probably . . . five yards offsides,” Spirit Coach Jim Gabarra said afterward. Leon, for her part, said she thought she was properly aligned.
The Spirit’s emotions had been so different in the 64th minute. Then, Cheyna Williams had scored her third goal of the season to break a 1-1 tie. For much of the game, the Spirit (4-9-4) had fired shot after shot at the goal. But most of its shots were saved, and a handful of them hit the crossbar.
“It’s kind of been this way all year, where we are able to create a lot of chances,” Gabarra said. “We’re kind of going through that cycle where every bounce goes against you.”
The Spirit returned to its home stadium Saturday after more than a month on the road. A season after losing in the NWSL championship match, the Spirit is in danger of missing the playoffs.
Entering its second matchup against the Breakers (3-7-7) this season, the Spirit had eight games left to try to capture as many points as possible.
After the draw, the Spirit remains in a tie for eighth in the 10-team league; it is eight points behind fourth-place Seattle for the final playoff spot.
Washington came out from the start Saturday with an aggressiveness befitting its dire situation. It paid immediate dividends — the Spirit scored in the sixth minute.
Defender Estelle Johnson fired a shot on goal, but Breakers goalkeeper Abby Smith blocked the initial shot. The ball landed at Johnson’s feet, and with Smith on the ground, Johnson scored to give Washington a 1-0 lead.
“I think that goal was just a really good buildup,” Johnson said. “We try to play like that all the time. Sometimes we have the energy to do it.”
Washington maintained its assertiveness, pressuring Smith to keep making saves. In the first half, Washington controlled possession and had a total of eight shots — five of which were on target.
“We should have had three or four goals in the first half,” Gabarra said.
Leon scored her first goal of the match right before halftime, firing a shot from the center of the box to the left corner.
Neither team gained much of an advantage in the second half until the 64th minute when Williams scored off a rebound on a shot from Estefania Banini.
Leon’s equalizer ultimately shattered Washington’s hopes of getting its first win since June 24. Washington had a few more chances at the end and fired two more shots in the final few minutes. But, fitting of its bad luck, those two shots hit the crossbar.
“It’s honestly been our luck all season,” Johnson said. “We get so close and we just end up hitting the crossbar.”