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Thorns suffer first defeat of the season in 3-1 loss to Washington Spirit

In case you didn’t know, the Spirit are a young team

Anya Button

After opening the season undefeated in their first four games the Thorns fell 1-3 to the Washington Spirit. Portland looked a step behind Washington for most of the match, playing a more reactive brand of soccer. Especially since the departure of Lindsey Horan, the Thorns have built their attack primarily through the wings, and struggled against the Spirit’s solid central midfield.

Washington, on the other hand, did a good job connecting passes and dictating the pace of the game, choosing moments to push into the attack and threaten the Thorns.

The Spirit found their way onto the scoresheet in the 16th minute. Under pressure by the Thorns, Washington played the ball back to Sam Staab in centerback. Staab took the easy pass to Amy Harrison, who pushed up the wing before sending a ball to Ashley Hatch who found herself in space between Emily Menges and Gabby Seiler. Hatch took a touch towards the endline before sending a left-footed shot past Seiler and Britt Eckerstrom to put her team up 1-0.

In the 43rd minute, a horn sounded, signaling the detection of lightning nearby. The match went into weather delay just before the end of the first half, the second time a Thorns game has been stalled by weather in as many weeks.

Although the scoreline remained the same going into halftime, Washington threatened in the closing minutes of the first 45, calling Britt Eckerstrom to come up with a big save. Celeste Boureille played a slow ball back to Emily Menges. That was picked off Menges’ feet by Andi Sullivan. Eckerstrom came off her line well, taking the ball off Sullivan and diving to collect the rebound.

The Spirit continued to push on the attack early in the second half, recording another goal in the 47th minute of play. Jordan DiBiasi sent in a corner to the far post, which Dagny Brynjarsdottir rose to claim. Instead of clearing the ball, Brynjarsdottir’s header deflected the cross into the back of the Portland net, scoring an own goal and doubling Washington’s lead.

As the Spirit continued to press, Britt Eckerstrom once again pulled through for the Thorns in the 58th minute. When another Washington corner was cleared only to the top of the box, Meggie Dougherty Howard took the long-range shot. Eckerstrom pulled out a fantastic diving punch, keeping the scoreline at 2-0, at least for the moment.

Portland broke onto the scoreboard in the 67th minute. Andressinha’s corner was cleared only to Ellie Carpenter, who sent the ball back up the line to her. Ana Maria Crnogorcevic got on the end of the following cross, calling Aubrey Bledsoe to make a point-blank save. The deflection fell back to Crnogorcevic, who found Caitlin Foord unmarked in the box. Foord headed the ball into the back of the net.

Unfortunately for the Thorns, Washington’s offensive pressure did not subside after the goal, and Jordan DiBiasi found herself standing over the ball for a Spirit corner kick only minutes later. DiBiasi sent in a curling ball, finding the back of the net without anyone in the box getting a touch. Under pressure from Cheyna Matthews, Britt Eckerstrom was unable to make a strong play on the ball, and Washington found themselves up 3-1.

In the final twenty minutes, Portland was unable to find a way back into the game. As happened earlier in the match, they struggled to find players on the end of crosses, or to generate good looks when they were able to get crosses off.

With this loss, the Spirit jumps past the Thorns on the NWSL table, now tied for first place with the Houston Dash, who play tomorrow.