Tough Lessons: Racing Louisville Falls 0-2 to the Washington Spirit

Racing Louisville fell 0-2 to the Washington Spirit on the back of some costly mistakes that marred an otherwise solid game for Louisville.

Racing fell behind early after conceding a goal in the fifth minute, coming off a passing error. They went on to play a strong first half with plenty of scoring opportunities that ultimately went nowhere. A shakier second half marred with uncharacteristic mistakes led to a second goal for the Spirit in the 58th minute. Despite putting together several more good chances, Racing just couldn’t pull off a win.

After the match, Coach Holly expressed frustration with the result, acknowledging that while Racing held possession for much of the match and had long streaks of solid play, they ultimately let small moments of inattention and mismanaged play determine the outcome.

“We opened the game well and made a really silly decision in possession,” Holly said. “Listen, we knew what they were going to do and that’s what they did. We have to learn the lessons of what these teams can do to us if we breathe for a second and let our foot off the gas, they’re going to punish you and that’s what they did.”

Still, Holly acknowledges that this game will serve as a good lesson for the team. The team held possession through most of the match, had improved passing accuracy, and surpassed their record for shots taken in a game. All these metrics point to the team’s continued improvement on the pitch. But sometimes, you play well and still lose. That’s just part of the growing pains all new teams go through.

“I’ll tell you exactly what I said to the team after the game: When you’re trying to make a masterpiece, you definitely spill some paint on the floor,” Holly stated post-match. “We just have to be in love with the fact that we’re working towards a masterpiece, but we know there’s gonna be spilled paint, small mistakes. There’s going to be lessons and growing pains and we have to embrace that.”

Tyrannosaurs & Tricks

Outside of the scoreline, Sunday’s match was a standout in a few notable ways.

Most notably, Racing Louisville fans finally saw the debut of international star Nadia Nadim, who entered the pitch in the 55th minute to rapturous applause. Visa delays kept the Danish national team member from joining the club before last week, but she’s available now and already showing what she can do. In only 35 minutes, Nadim managed four shots. That’s almost a quarter of the whole team’s shots all game (17). This includes an excellent chance of a chip from Yuki Nagasato that went just wide.

After the match, Nadim called her reception and stadium atmosphere amazing, saying she was “super happy in the way they received me.” She was even greeted by a fan in a T-Rex costume in honor of the nickname given to her years ago by Coach Holly who used to tease her about her skinny arms and powerful legs. Nadim liberally uses the T-Rex emoji on social media and was delighted by the homage.

 

Nadia Nadim wasn’t the only player wowing fans. Lauren Milliet shocked everyone when she pulled off a successful flip throw-in. While it was blocked by a Spirit defender, it earned Racing a corner kick.

By the Numbers

Despite the scoreline, this match was arguably Racing’s best offensive showing yet.

Washington and Louisville had an almost equal number of shots with the Spirit having 18 and Racing having 17. These 17 shots far exceed Racing’s previous record of 13 from their regular-season debut against Kansas City. Comparatively, Washington’s 18 are a massive drop from the whopping 29 they managed in their last match-up with Racing back in May. And yet Racing won 2-0 back in May and the Spirit won 2-0 on Sunday. Sometimes football is weird like that!

Racing’s five shots on goal equal their previous record. Racing managed five shots on goal during their matches against Houston and Chicago in June.  Racing won both those games. Again, sometimes football is weird like that.

chart racing shots
Racing Louisville’s shots and shots on goal up to Sunday’s match.

There is one glaring issue offensively that Racing needs to work on, however.

Racing must do better on corner kicks. They earned 11 corners last night and couldn’t convert a single one. In fact, they didn’t even look like much of a threat during any of them. This has been an ongoing issue for Racing who has yet to convert a single one all season. They’ve had 39 corner kicks including this match and have zero to show for it. The only strategy seems to be to lob the ball into the crowd and hope it hits a player in lavender. Obviously, this hasn’t worked.

Meanwhile, opposing teams are able to score on us with some regularity on corners. Kristen Hamilton scored for the Courage with a header off a corner during the Challenge Cup. Simone Charley scored for Portland in what was certainly a beautifully designed and practiced play the last time the Thorns were in town. And last night, the Spirit’s Sam Staab scored off a header.

In short, corners need to be worked on, both offensively and defensively because too many points are being hemorrhaged and too many chances are being missed in these moments.

Defensively, things regressed a bit for Racing. While Washington’s 18 shots on goal were a vast improvement over Racing’s last match-up with the Spirit, they’re over twice the number allowed against Orlando last week. Washington is a very quick, front-loaded team so this isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s a development that Racing will certainly want to end before it becomes a trend.

 

washington shots and shots on goal
The Washington Spirit’s shots and shots on goal up to Sunday’s match.

Racing continues to improve in holding possession. In their last matchup against the Spirit, Racing held only 40% possession. This time, that number is almost completely reversed with Racing holding over 58% of possession all game.

Passing accuracy also continues to improve. Racing was more accurate than their opponent for the second match in a row and only the third time in 10 regular season games. This Sunday, Racing’s accuracy improved to 80% – up from about 75% last match. This is somewhat ironic considering their first goal was the result of a poorly executed pass that Washington was able to steal.

Ultimately, this was mostly a good game for Racing Louisville. There are clear, measurable signs of growth in the team from game to game, which is the best that can be hoped for in an expansion team. With Nadim’s addition, Racing Louisville’s roster is finally complete for the first time. This will hopefully allow the team to settle and cement their chemistry.

Up Next

Next up, Racing take on the OL Reign in Tacoma. The Reign are the final team in the league Racing has yet to play.

It’s also less than a month until the Women’s Cup tournament in Louisville, where Racing and the Chicago Red Stars will take on Bayern and Nadim’s former team, Paris Saint-Germain. The four teams will play double-headers on Wednesday, August 18, and Saturday, August 21. Get your tickets now on seatgeek.com. For more information, visit the Women’s Cup website here.

Author

Bekki Morgan

Covering Racing Louisville and the NWSL. Find me on Twitter and Instagram: @sukiisacat.