The Washington Spirit opened up the 2018 NWSL season on Saturday night against the Seattle Reign at Memorial Stadium. Two first-half goals from Seattle sunk Washington in game one, 2-1.
Reign forward Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring in the 7th minute off of a free kick. With 10 minutes to go before halftime, former Spirit forward Jodie Taylor doubled the lead for the home team to send the Reign into the locker room up 2-0. A goal from Joanna Lohman in the 68th minute brought the Spirit within one, but that would be all Washington could do to comeback.
Defensive Mistakes Cost Washington
Rookie Rebecca Quinn was to make her NWSL debut on Saturday against the Reign but due to visa issues, she will have to wait another week to make that happen. Instead, Whitney Church slid into her spot in the center of the defense alongside Estelle Johnson. While Church did not have a particularly poor performance, the partnership between Church and right back Taylor Smith struggled.
“I think the biggest thing is you’ve got Whit and Taylor who haven’t played together and they’ve only had a couple of training sessions and a couple of games,” head coach Jim Gabarra said after the match. “Then you’ve got Rapinoe out there to deal with so it’s not a good cocktail. But you’ve got to get through it and you’ve got to find that relationship and it takes time for those.”
The second goal highlighted the Spirit’s struggle defensively, with a poor touch from Smith on the offensive end leading to an easy cross in from Rapinoe.
“I thought we were a little unlucky on the second goal,” Gabarra said. “I mean Taylor has a great read, she wins the ball but it goes right to them and they play it in behind her so it was a little unfortunate.”
Joanna Lohman Scores in Return From ACL Injury
In the 2017 season opener, Joanna Lohman’s season was over after just 22 minutes. Lohman tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament against the North Carolina Courage in April of last year. Almost a year later, Lohman returned to the pitch as a sub for Tori Huster at halftime. With 23 minutes gone in the second half, Lohman proved that she was officially back. Off of an assist from Estefania Banini, Lohman spun her way through the middle of the box and rifled a shot past goalkeeper Michelle Betos.
“I think it was such an amazing feeling, just getting back on the field,” Lohman said postgame. “I’ve really missed playing the game and obviously I’ve missed being with the Washington Spirit. They’ve been so supportive of me through my injury. I wasn’t fully expecting to play tonight, I think Jim and I’ve been talking about slowly getting me back into the games, so I was so excited to get in at halftime and try to make a difference and bring some energy. I was happy to do that and to get a goal was just an icing on the cake.”
Andi Sullivan Impresses in NWSL Debut
Rookie midfielder Andi Sullivan made her debut for the Washington Spirit on Saturday evening. The Lorton, VA native had three shots, two of which were on target in 90 minutes of work. Sullivan seemed to fit in seamlessly into the Spirit lineup alongside Tori Huster and Meggie Dougherty Howard.
“I thought she was a rock in their for us,” Gabarra said. “She was very reliable. I think she’s confident enough to withstand the tactics and professionalism that was thrown at her tonight. She just kept bouncing back and fought through it so it was really good to see that she’s at a level that she can play in this league and excel.”
The Spirit will return home to face the Orlando Pride on March 31 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. This match will be the Lifetime Game of the Week and will kick off at 3:30 p.m.
“Well, home opener is always an exciting time,” Gabarra said. “I think we’ll have a little bit different opportunity to game plan against Orlando now that we’ve got a game on tape. We can also evaluate our play and make some refinements and clean up some details and some of those working relationships and get to know each other a little better.”