In third meeting this month, Spirit extends unbeaten streak vs. OL Reign


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From opposite ends of the continent, the Washington Spirit and OL Reign have become quite familiar with one another of late, irritatingly so. They already have clashed a disproportionate number of times — three in the National Women’s Soccer League regular season, once in the playoffs and in a preseason tournament.

After a 0-0 draw Sunday in Seattle, though, they might not cross paths again this year. Only a postseason meeting this fall would reunite them.

“For both of our sakes, we’re good to have a break until October or so,” Washington Coach Kris Ward said with a laugh.

Despite being outplayed at Lumen Field, the Spirit will claim bragging rights after three regulation victories, one triumph in a shootout and this draw.

“I’m not even going to lie: I don’t want to see them again,” left back Camryn Biegalski said. “I even have people texting me, ‘I feel like you guys play every other week.’ ”

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The Spirit undoubtedly will have a hard time forgetting about Rose Lavelle and Megan Rapinoe, among others.

“I was thinking the other day: When do we play Louisville?” Ward said. “When do we play Kansas City? Houston was in the hotel with us in Portland [this past week]. When do we even play Houston? I’m not even sure.”

Sunday’s draw also completed a stretch of six matches in 23 days and a Pacific Northwest swing that began with a 1-1 draw against the Portland Thorns on Wednesday. OL Reign (0-1-3) failed to capitalize on big advantages in shots (20-7), shots on goal (8-2) and corner kicks (7-3) as its winless streak against the Spirit in all competitions grew to 10 games.

Given their heavy early schedule, the reigning champions were relieved to catch their breath.

“We got a really good boost from everyone who came off the bench,” Ward said. “It was definitely needed. I was hoping we had a little more in us, but it was just a struggle.”

The Spirit welcomed back two of its most important players, right back Kelley O’Hara and defensive midfielder Andi Sullivan. O’Hara had been sidelined since the Challenge Cup final May 7 with a hamstring ailment, while Sullivan (calf) hadn’t played since U.S. national team duty in early April.

“It’s been really hard to watch from the stands, especially when we’ve been in tough stretches of games,” Sullivan said. “So many players are putting in 90 [minutes] after 90 and battle after battle, and it’s been so awesome to watch. At the same time, I’m like, ‘Man, I wish I were out there having their back and helping them push through.’ ”

With Lavelle orchestrating in the heart of the attack and Sofia Huerta serving dangerous balls from the right flank, OL Reign controlled most of the match. Aside from Veronica Latsko’s 18-yard bid off the crossbar in the first half, though, genuine scoring opportunities were limited.

The Spirit labored to build possession, relying almost exclusively on transition. The hosts neutralized Washington’s three impact players, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez and Ashley Hatch.

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With the addition of Rapinoe at the start of the second half, OL Reign’s pressure intensified. Washington looked ready to crack.

“We started the second half horrendously,” Ward said, “and that put us underwater much longer than we needed to be.”

OL Reign, though, was off-target, and Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury held her ground, most notably in the 68th minute with a kick save on Ally Watt’s bid.

“We just had to put our heads down and grind,” Biegalski said. “We haven’t had the easiest schedule, but we’re making it work to the best of our ability and taking care of our bodies.”

Notes: Washington will return east but remain in road mode, traveling to Orlando for Friday’s match. …

Hatch left the game in the second half because she did not feel well, Ward said. She was a little under the weather the past few days, he added, then took a blow to the head in the first half. She passed a concussion test and was scheduled to undergo additional evaluation. …

Midfielders Jordan Baggett (concussion) and Dorian Bailey (cheekbone) remain sidelined.



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