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Washington Spirit let two-goal lead slip in first game following coaching change


The Washington Spirit split points with Houston in a 2-2 draw on Friday night in the team’s first match since coach Richie Burke’s suspension.

The Spirit started on the front foot, with Paige Nielsen volleying in a rocket from the top of the box to put Washington up 1-0 in the 8th minute.

Tori Huster added to the Spirit’s lead in the 53rd minute, letting off a low shot from the top of the box. Friday marked Huster’s 150th NWSL career match.

The Dash began their late charge in the 60th minute with Veronica Latsko knocking in a well-placed Rachel Daly corner kick.

It was Daly leading the attack once again for the Dash, sending in a lofted ball that was nodded down for Michaela Abam, who blew past Washington’s defense for the tying goal in the 83rd minute.

Friday marked Abam’s debut for her hometown squad, making her the third Houston player, behind Daly and Shea Groom, to score in their inaugural game with the club.

The Spirit’s game came only days after The Washington Post published a story detailing allegations of verbal and physical abuse leveled at players from former coach Richie Burke.

“It was superhuman for a lot of them to deal with everything that we dealt with this week, to come down here, deal with the circumstances and put in the effort,” said assistant coach Kris Ward after Friday night’s match.

Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe called the team “resilient,” revealing that, “It’s been emotional.”

Ward wants the team to take some time off ahead of the Spirit’s next game, adding that he hopes players will take “some time to recover from everything, both from a physical standpoint but also a mental and emotional one.”

Next up: Washington will host the Orlando Pride on Aug.22. The Dash will compete in the Women’s International Champions Cup in Portland, starting on Aug. 18.