Segra Field Stalemate: Washington Spirit vs Racing Louisville Game Recap
The Washington Spirit and Racing Louisville faced each other on June 17, 2022; each hoping to come out with three points but leaving with one in a 2-2 tie. Prior to the game the Spirit and Louisville were ranked number eight and nine respectively on the NWSL regular season leaderboard and were eager to come out with a win. The Washington Spirit had been unable to secure a win since May 1, 2022, and Racing Louisville entered the game off three consecutive losses, both looking to join some of the other teams higher up on the board.
The desperation from both teams was prevalent at the start of the match, immediately beginning in the first minute with a fifty-fifty ball that led to Racing’s Alexandra Chidiac getting hit in the face and escorted off the field. Following this physical start to the game, the 8th minute saw the first of many yellow cards of the match and indicated an early dominance from the Spirit. Particularly evident in the Spirit’s first-half attacking third was the effort to make an Ashley Sanchez to Trinity Rodman connection on the right side of the attack. While the first attempt at this in the 10th minute was too heavy on the pass, this matchup would continue to be dangerous for Louisville's defense throughout the game.
In the 14th minute, the second yellow card of the match was awarded to Andi Sullivan after another fifty-fifty ball and a collision with Racing’s Savannah Demelo. Following this yellow between the 20th and 24th minutes of the game was a series of set pieces of corner kicks from the Washington Spirit. In the 22nd minute, Rodman managed to take a shot on goal but as Emily Sonnett came in to complete the header, she was offside and the goal was revoked. While this cemented the Spirit’s dominance in the first half, Racing’s Jessica McDonald and Demelo were quick to act defensively in the box and expertly clear many of these attempts.
In the 33rd minute, Rodman once again tried a shot after a right-side run and scored the first goal of the match and her second regular-season goal. Between the 28th and 42nd minute and nearing the end of the second half a series of shots were attempted by the Spirit, the first being a shot from Sanchez from Rodman’s cross that was saved by Racing’s Katie Lund and the second being an attempt from Ashely Hatch. This second attempt was saved by Lund but off the ricochet, Madison Elwell managed to sneak into the box and score the second goal for the Spirit. This was also Elwell’s first career goal. In the 2nd minute of stoppage time, Sullivan attempted a shot but hit the crossbar, and the half ended 2-0 in favor of the Washington Spirit.
The start of the second half saw an immediate shift in dominance and energy from the Spirit to Racing; the team looking to earn back the momentum they lost after the opening 10 minutes of the first half. In the 51st minute, Demelo placed herself perfectly for a cross to McDonald, but Sullivan cleared it. In the 59th minute and looking for a third goal, the Spirit had an impressive sequence from Sanchez to Rodman and then to Elwell but it was expertly defended by Racing’s Lauren Millet.
In the 65th minute, Demelo began a play to McDonald who then had a back and forth with Nadia Nadim which ended up as Racing Louisville's first goal of the match, bringing the score up to 2-1 and adding a stroke of confidence to the players. McDonald fell back in the 71st minute to defend and managed to intercept a Rodman to Kelley O’Hara connection, once again blocking out the Spirit’s attempt at a third goal and changing the tides of the game. Looking for an equalizer in the 78th minute Demelo perfectly cut through the Spirit’s defense and offered a cross into the box but no other Racing players were there to receive it. In the 88th minute, however, Racing Louisville capitalized on a beautiful sequence; an Emily Fox pass to McDonald, crossed towards Nadmin, and headed past Aubrey Kingsbury, tying up the match 2-2. Despite a last-minute frantic effort from Washington, they were not able to regain the lead they had held onto during the first match, and the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
In the Racing Louisville press conference post-match, head coach Kim Björkegren commented on the team’s initial slow start by citing that at the beginning “Washington was the better team for sure” but stressed how the team’s ability to “keep fighting to the whistle [gave them] the chance to take one or three points.” Björkegren also commented on Nadim’s contribution to Racing’s first brace in club history stating that Nadmin has a combination of an ability to “bring some type of fighting spirit [and] tell[ing] the girls to believe in themselves” but also “quality on the pitch.”
Head coach Kris Ward for the Washington Spirit was less enthusiastic about the team’s performance and expressed disappointment and shock in the mistakes in the second half as they struggled with “stuff [they] cover with the under-14s.” Both he and goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury commented on how this game should’ve been a win for a team, and how difficult it is to “fix mentality” instead of tactics. Ward closed his remarks by asserting that the team has heart but “heart should be a bare minimum” and he hopes to see some improvement in the upcoming games during the international break.
Racing Louisville’s next game is July 3, 2022, against the Orlando Pride while the Washington Spirit is set to face the San Diego Wave on July 3, 2022.