Without Sullivan (calf) and O’Hara (hamstring) and staring at a deficit, Washington (1-1-1) faced the prospect of a second straight loss while battling a Portland side that began the year with two clean sheets. After its 1-0 loss to Angel City FC on Sunday, the team’s first regular season loss since August, the Spirit lamented a lack of aggressiveness.
“First and foremost, we talked about our mentality when we step on the field,” forward Ashley Hatch said. “I don’t think we brought our best mentality [Sunday], and therefore our physicality lacked last game. And then we also just talked about getting more numbers in the box and getting crosses in a little bit earlier.”
Only six minutes after the Thorns capitalized, Hatch delivered the equalizer when she leaped and nudged a cross from Anna Heilferty inside the post.
Washington threatened a game-winner the rest of the way, playing through its star trio of Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman. In the 67th minute, Sanchez took a promising shot on a corner kick, but Portland goalkeeper Bella Bixby managed to direct it over the crossbar. Rodman later blitzed into open space and took a point-blank shot that Bixby thwarted with a kick save.
“Those three, they’re tremendous,” Spirit Coach Kris Ward said of Hatch, Sanchez and Rodman. “They are a walking nightmare … or maybe they’re a sprinting nightmare for the opposition. You just don’t get a ton of time to breathe around them. They’re on you, and I think Trin showed that so many times, coming back to dispossess people. They think that they’ve got time, and she’s on top of them. They think that they’ve got time, and Sanchez is sprinting after them. And [Hatch] is always around to put in a tackle and get on them.”
The Spirit appeared to score off a corner kick when Emily Sonnett tapped in a loose ball and sprinted toward the sideline to celebrate. But an official raised a flag for offside on the previous touch.
As Washington was celebrating, the Thorns put the ball down and generated a counter-advantage, and the referee let them play on (though no goal came of it). That exchange — the disallowed goal and the counter — drew the ire of Ward, who said the continuation “should never be allowed to happen.”
“Our team did fantastic,” he said. “Our team was so good. Portland’s team was also fantastic. There was another team that was out there — not so fantastic. But our team, I thought they were tremendous.”
Asked whether he received any explanation for the offside call, Ward said: “We asked for a lot of things. It wasn’t coming.”
The Spirit finished with seven shots on goal to Portland’s three. Amber Brooks earned the start at defensive midfield and, in the first half, reached 10,000 minutes played in her NWSL career.