The Columbus Eagles spent the first two matches of the 2021 Women’s Premier Soccer League season struggling. Outscored 10-0 to start the year, Saturday’s Eagles distanced themselves from past performances. While the final scoreline added another loss to the season record, the product on the field showed that the win column won’t stay empty for long. Columbus lost 2-1 to Indianapolis’ FC Pride but had the best performance of the young season.
Possession swung in the Eagles' favor for the first time in their 2021 outdoor season. Columbus was the aggressor and had the best chances on goal in the first 15 minutes. Eleven minutes into the game, forward Donovan Wahl sent a dangerous cross into a congested FC Pride penalty area. Madison Costner, a veteran Eagles forward and confident shooter making her 2021 debut. showed why she’s so important to the Eagles in the 14th minute a strong attempt towards the goal from the right side that hit the side netting.
FC Pride got on the scoreboard first, in the 16th minute. Columbus center back Micaela Powers was on the receiving end of some fancy footwork from forward Addison Chester. This left Powers chasing the Pride player as she scored a goal on a short break away to put the visitors up 1-0.
After going down, the Eagles built offensive opportunities and found solid passing in the midfield between newcomer Alicia Donley, captain Ashley Gogolin and Sarina Dirrig. FC Pride wasn’t able to make up a lot of distance in the midfield and sat back on the counter.
One standout elsewhere on the field was Marike Mousset who had an impressive performance on both sides of the ball. When FC Pride tried going down the sidelines, she was there to slow momentum. In the first half, Mousset made a nice move to split three FC Pride defenders to get Columbus a shot on goal. Even though the chance wasn’t converted, it was a sign that the Eagles getting the people they want into the penalty area for offensive opportunities. In their past two matches, the fullbacks didn’t create many of those chances. Mousset and Sheryl Shope both had more involvement in this contest.
On defense, center backs Monique Reventlow and Powers had a strong performance on the multiple counters by FC Pride but unfortunately saw one too many. The other goal came in the 35th minute off an Eagles interception after a Columbus pass went right to an FC Pride player’s foot. Midfielder Claire Petersen made the Eagles pay for the interception with FC Pride’s second goal of the first half.
Columbus didn’t take the two-goal deficit sitting down, however. Just two minutes after conceding again, Costner had seen enough. Mousset made another offensive run and drew in two FC Pride defenders, keeping possession until the right moment that left Costner open two yards outside of the penalty area. Mousset found the veteran who shot from her position outside of the 18-yard box into the left corner of the net. Columbus went into the half down 2-1 but brought their momentum into the second half.
FC Pride came to Columbus with a smaller roster and had only two players to use as substitutions. For supporters that are used to pro leagues that use three or five players, this may not seem like a big concern, but WPSL, due to being a league that’s also used for college offseason play, allows unlimited substitutions. While the Eagles were able to bring players on and off freely, FC Pride had far fewer options to give their team rest.
This difference in energy was evident in the second half. As the final 45 minutes moved on, the Indiana side looked less and less interested in trying to hold possession and attack. This gave Columbus more offensive chances than in previous matches this season so far. FC Pride put a lot of bodies back in the defensive third but the Eagles couldn’t break through.
Their best chance came in the final five minutes when Powers took a shot from outside of the penalty area. It made its way through the defense but veered just left of the net.
The final score didn’t fall in Columbus’ favor, but the work that the Eagles did in training paid off. There was never a moment of the match, even down two, where it seemed like Columbus couldn’t compete with the opponent. One solid piece of footwork and an errant pass in the defensive third were the difference between a loss and a potential victory. The Eagles can take this performance with them into training to improve in their remaining eight WPSL matches of the season.
Sunday, June 6, the Eagles travel to face off against the Dayton Dutch Lions in a 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff against an in-state rival. The Dutch Lions sit in fourth place in the Midwestern Conference with one point after two matches.