The Washington Spirit have not won a soccer game in more than a month.
The reigning NWSL champions last tallied three points in their regular-season opener against OL Reign on May 1. Since then, they have gone eight regular-season games without a victory.
In fairness to the team, Washington has been dealing an overloaded schedule, playing every few days through the season’s opening six weeks. Their packed calendar looks to be taking a toll, with coach Kris Ward rotating star players to manage minutes and provide rest for tired players.
The Spirit’s understandable exhaustion has begun to impact the team’s performance down the stretch, with Washington falling victim to a series of stoppage-time goals.
Orlando spoiled what would’ve been the Spirit’s second win of the 2022 campaign when the Pride notched goals in the 95th and 98th minutes during the clubs’ May 27 matchup to secure a draw.
A late-game goal once again rained on the Spirit’s parade Saturday, with the North Carolina Courage squashing Washington’s second-half comeback with a goal in the 92nd minute to hand the Spirit their third loss of the season.
“There is not even an attempt to sugarcoat it,” Ward told reporters after the game, adding that players were frustrated. “They’re not happy.”
Ward did say that there “some questionable things that happened at the end there that ultimately lead to the last goal,” referring to the free kick awarded to the Courage in stoppage time, but he also pointed to areas in which the Spirit was outplayed.
“North Carolina won a majority of the tackles and that’s a factor,” Ward said. “If you’re going to lose tackles, you’re out of the play and they are going to continue on down the field.”
.@KaleighKurtz called game! Her stoppage goal gives the Courage the lead.@TheNCCourage | #CourageUnitesUs pic.twitter.com/hh0dCiYoaS— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) June 12, 2022
.@KaleighKurtz called game! Her stoppage goal gives the Courage the lead.@TheNCCourage | #CourageUnitesUs pic.twitter.com/hh0dCiYoaS
Forward Ashley Hatch echoed Ward’s sentiments after the loss, saying, “This long stretch of games has been hard.”
While the team’s second-half, two-goal rally against the Courage was impressive, Hatch said she hopes her side can make changes quicker.
“I think we grew into the game a little bit more, we figured things out as the game went on,” she said. “I think we need to be able to figure the game out a little bit sooner and grow into it a little bit faster.”
The Spirit sit in 10th place in the NWSL standings as of Sunday morning, ahead of Racing Louisville and the Courage. While Washington is in the middle of the pack when it comes to goals scored on the season, logging eight, the club is third in goals against, allowing 11 in the back of their net. Only Orlando and Louisville have had more goals scored on them.
Thankfully, a break in the Spirit’s schedule is in sight, with the team’s Friday matchup against Racing Louisville their last until July 3. The hiatus provides necessary rest, although perhaps not as much as the team would like — many Spirit stars are expected to report to international duty with the USWNT for the June camp and for July’s Concacaf W Championship.
A win will be crucial for Washington against Louisville as the team prepares to lose some of its players to the national team and the club heads into a long break.