Halftime Sports

The Washington Spirit downs Bay FC

March 29, 2024

On Saturday Mar. 23, the Washington Spirit (1-1-0) defeated Bay FC (1-1-0) 2-1 at Audi Field in their first home game of the 2024-25 season. The Spirit dominated the second half, but might have only managed  a draw without rookie Croix Bethune’s timely goal in the 95th minute with almost the final kick of the game. 

The Spirit’s opponents, Bay FC are an expansion team based in San Jose, Calif. playing their first ever season in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Despite this being the team’s inaugural season, Bay FC has already picked up one of the biggest transfers this offseason, Asisat Oshoala from FC Barcelona. In their first game and win of the season, Bay FC’s star forward Oshoala notched their only goal of the game, scoring just sixteen minutes into the match. 

Thanks to Oshoala’s early contributions once again, Bay FC struck first in Saturday’s game. Oshoala got in behind the Spirit backline, then cut the ball back to Dorian Bailey, who slotted the ball home against her former squad; she has 73 appearances for the Spirit—sixth most all time. 

Just a minute after the Bay FC goal, Oshoala put Washington’s backline under more pressure. She stole the ball from Spirit centerback Tara Mckeown, then chipped the ball over the head of Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury from about 30 yards out. Luckily for Washington, her shot hit the crossbar and bounced harmlessly out of play, but she was a few inches away from adding her second goal of the season in as many games. 

However, the Spirit quickly equalized. Star forward Trinity Rodman cut inside from the right wing and slipped a pass to rookie midfielder Hal Hershfelt. Hershfelt, the fifth pick of this year’s NWSL Draft out of Clemson, fired a rocket into the top left corner to tie the game at one apiece. Rodman’s assist was the 11th of her career, bringing her into joint first place for most assists in Spirit history, along with Diana Matheson and Crystal Dunn. 

After their equalizer, the Spirit found their rhythm on offense. In the 26th minute, another new Spirit signing, Casey Krueger, sent a dangerous cross into the box. Outleymata Sarr nearly put the Spirit ahead, but just missed wide. In the 35th minute, Sarr had another chance on a counterattack, but Bay FC goalkeeper Lysianna Proulx made a diving save to keep the game tied. 

The game remained tied 1-1 at halftime. However, just before the break the Spirit suffered a major setback. Krueger, playing in just her second ever game for Washington, collided with another player and went down with an apparent head injury. She left the game and her status is still unknown, although she does not have a concussion. Krueger was one of the Spirit’s biggest additions this offseason, so her loss was a blow to the Spirit’s defense.

The second half started slowly, as neither team found any clear cut opportunities in the first 20 minutes. However, in the 65th minute, the Spirit had the half’s first scoring chance. Bethune, the third overall pick in this year’s NWSL Draft out of Georgia, found herself in space on a counterattack. She took a powerful shot from 25 yards out that hit off the crossbar and went over the net. In the 82nd minute, Washington looked threatening once again. Rodman picked up the ball on the left wing, cut inside, and fired an overpowering shot just over the goal. Bethune had another great chance in the 89th minute, but she missed wide from about 15 yards away. Bethune, again, had a chance in stoppage time, when she received a pass from Hershfelt and turned into open space on the edge of the box. However, her shot was directly at Proulx, who collected the shot comfortably.

Despite the missed chances, Bethune finally broke through in the fifth minute of injury time. She settled a speculative cross and flicked the ball to Ashley Hatch, who returned the ball to Bethune. Bethune had just the goalkeeper to beat, and she put the ball away in the bottom corner for the late winner. 

Bethune’s goal gave the Spirit their first win of the season in an impressive, but imperfect performance. Notably for Washington, both goal scorers were rookies. Bethune and Hershfelt were two of the top five picks in this year’s NWSL Draft, and their impact on the game was clearly felt Saturday. Another positive takeaway was the Spirit’s patience in the match. They created lots of chances throughout the game—particularly in the second half—and finally saw the payoff late in the match. However, the Spirit carelessly gave the ball away too often with Bay FC pressing high up the field, forcing a lot of turnovers from the Spirit. 

At the postgame press conference, interim head coach Adrián González said that “One positive thing is that the team just believed until the end. This is also the mindset that we’re trying to get—fight until the end. I’m so happy for them.”

Still, the future is bright for the Spirit, who host Utah Royals FC at Audi Field on March 31 at 1:00 PM EST. For continued coverage and updates on Georgetown and Washington sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on X, formerly Twitter.

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