The 3,364 fans who filled the stands on a rainy night at Sahlen’s Stadium were treated to one of the best performances all season by the Flash in their 4-0 win over the Washington Spirit. Not only did the Flash extend their league-high unbeaten streak to nine matches, but midfielder Carli Lloyd recorded just the second hat trick in NWSL history and Abby Wambach ended the evening with two assists.
“It felt great, some great assists by Alex (Sahlen) and Abby (Wambach)” Lloyd said. “Just collectively, a good team effort.”
It took just three minutes for the Flash (and Lloyd) to find the back of the net with a cross by Sahlen in the box. Lloyd managed to find space in front of goal and headed the ball past Spirit’s keeper Ashlyn Harris.
Lloyd was at it again in the 22nd minute, this time off a low cross sent into the box by Wambach. The ball deflected off Spirit defender Candace Chapman and found Lloyd who sent the ball back near post to give the Flash a 2-0 lead.
“How are you going to give someone like Carli Lloyd the amount of space and time she had on the ball?” Harris said after the match. “I think we were soft all across the field.”
Lloyd completed her natural hat trick in the 55th minute on what was probably her best goal of the night. After chasing down a perfectly weighted pass by Wambach, Lloyd went 1v1 with Harris and it looked as if Harris got the best of the battle, however the ball slipped under her. Lloyd hurdled over Harris and finished the play for her third goal of the match.
“I hold high standards for myself because I am an attacking player on this team, in this role with the Flash, and I’ve got to produce” Lloyd said. “I’ve got to score goals. I’ve got to create goals for other players.”
The Flash added a fourth goal during stoppage time as Wambach headed a ball towards teammate Brittany Taylor who one-timed it into goal for her third of the season, and giving Wambach her second assist of the evening.
“Carli (Lloyd) scoring three goals today, I’m super proud of her” Wambach said after the match. “… She’s coming back from a shoulder injury but it takes a while to get back into the groove and she’s been working relentlessly to practice her shooting on goal. She put herself in great position to score goals in different ways today. That just shows the mark of a player that wants to get better every day. She sets high standards for herself and I’m glad that she’s on my team.”
With the win, the Flash moved into sole-possession of third place and within four points of second place Portland Thorns FC. The Flash will hit the road for four matches in 10 days starting with a July 4th visit to the Chicago Red Stars.
The loss drops the Spirit to 1-7-3 on the season and dangerously close to being eliminated from any chance of making the playoffs.
“We’re looking from the top. We need some guidance. We need some leadership and until we get that, it’s going to be hard to produce anything. I’m super disappointed in my team and myself.” Harris said following the match.
Washington Spirit head coach Mike Jorden was a little more optimistic after the match saying “Really, the scores haven’t indicated the types of games we’ve been playing. Kansas City was a tough game last week because they’re a good side and we just couldn’t compete in 95-degree weather out there and traveling. But most games, we’ve been in. Maybe not 50-50, but we’ve been in most of the games we play. We just haven’t finished and we give up silly goals.”
The road doesn’t any easier for the Spirit as they play four matches in the course of 11 days with the first match coming against FC Kansas City on July 3rd.
Reporter Caitlin Murray contributed to this report. Make sure to follow her on Twitter (@WoSoCait)