Washington Spirit slippage continues in loss to Kansas City Current

The Washington Spirit stumbled in many ways during their 13-game winless streak, from defensive lapses and squandered scoring chances proving costly to player absences and lucky rebounds sealing the team’s fate.

In a 1-0 loss to Kansas City Current on Sunday at Segra Field, Washington was thwarted by all of the above.

Still down by seven starters due to the US national team call-ups, the Spirit flirted with the lead but couldn’t capitalize on their flurry of opportunities. When current substitute Cece Kizer pounced on a ricochet in the 68th minute, the goal came on Kansas City’s first shot on target. And although Spirit rookie Tinaya Alexander fired a penalty in second-half stoppage time, current keeper Adrianna Franch denied her kick to preserve the victory.

“To a certain extent, it’s the only sport where that happens,” said Spirit Coach Kris Ward. “There’s nowhere else where you dominate possession and things like that and you don’t get the result.”

The Spirit (1-5-6) is second to last in the 12-team NWSL; Seventh-place Kansas City (4-4-3) has improved to 4-0-2 in its last six games. Washington will look for its first win since May 1 — an 11-game regular-season streak and two Challenge Cup contests — when it hosts Orlando Pride next Sunday at Audi Field.

“There’s pressure on us as a team,” said forward Tara McKeown, “to finally get the win back.”

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Ward made five changes from the team that lost 2-1 at the San Diego Wave a week earlier. The Spirit again played without Aubrey Kingsbury, Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez, Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch as they represent the United States at the Concacaf W Championship in Mexico.

The Spirit had the better chances before half-time. The current net was left uncovered in the 17th minute after Franch hesitated from a corner kick, but Bayley Feist headed it wide. Franch fared better when she landed a teasing cross from Anna Heilferty in the 31st, shortly before another flowing Spirit buildup ended with Jordan Baggett buzzing a shot over the bar.

Washington came closest to taking the lead shortly after the break. In the 57th minute, McKeown curled a shot which Franch tipped over the bar. Washington’s Amber Brooks then beat Franch with a floating header on the ensuing corner, only to see Kate Del Fava come off the line. Franch denied McKeown again in the 61st minute when she parried the forward’s header.

“I think we were just missing the last piece today,” said striker Averie Collins, who came off the bench in her first appearance since suffering a torn ACL ahead of the 2021 season. “We just have to work on that final pass, that final finish.”

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Seven minutes after McKeown’s header, the Current scored their goal. Del Fava’s cross from the right flank hit substitute Spirit Gaby Vincent’s leg before falling into Kizer, who stabbed a shot from seven yards out.

As the Spirit threw numbers in the attack, Alexander repeatedly carved out danger with weaving runs down the right flank. On a stoppage time push, Alexander slammed his way into the box, fell into traffic and earned the penalty. But Franch proceeded to block Alexander’s subsequent shot, then rushed for the ball as several Spirit players battled for the rebound.

“If it fits, everyone sings its praises. And if not, then that’s another story,” Ward said of Alexander. “But those are the burdens you have to carry as a striker, and I’m really proud of her for the way she attacked the other team and for stepping up and going to take it.”

To note: Ward said it was too early for an assessment of Spirit left-back Julia Roddar, who came off in the 44th minute with an apparent knee injury.

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