NWSL Recap – Washington Spirit, Chicago Red Stars swap late goals in a 1-1 draw
After a brief hiatus for the last FIFA window before the Olympics, victory in the 1-1 draw against the Chicago Red Stars was wrested from the Washington Spirit. The goals took a while, but Trinity Rodman’s 85th-minute goal, her first NWSL goal of the regular season, was undone by an added-time penalty from Morgan Gautrat.
The Red Stars came into play after conceding just two goals in their last four games, both in a game against Houston Dash. The Spirit remained goalless in just one game throughout the season and have the second highest scorer in the league in Ashley Hatch.
Richie Burke gave defenseman Camryn Biegalski a surprise start, and Emily Sonnett, Tori Huster, Tegan McGrady and Sam Staab joined her in a newly shuffled 433 formation.
The game started with high intensity as both midfielders were persistent in not squirming towards the goal. However, the Red Stars had the first big chance of the game through Mallory Pugh, with a throw from Sarah Gorden into the penalty area. The Spirit didn’t treat the ball with much confidence and it eventually fell to Pugh, whose shot flew past the goal.
After Rory Dames’ masterclass that stifled North Carolina’s courage, Burke and the Spirit knew it was going to be hard to get hold of the ball in the attacking third. Ten minutes later, the Red Stars had already hunted in packs to expropriate every spirit attacker on the ball. After about twenty minutes, the Red Stars began identifying an attack route. Once they won the ball, he was quickly knocked onto the Spirit’s left defensive behind Tegan McGrady and Sam Staab was dragged in 1v1s. One such sequence resulted in Kealia Watt circling Staab but shooting straight at Bledsoe, another was machined for a low flank that flashed over the goal before rolling harmlessly to the other side of the pitch.
Unfortunately, Ashley Hatch has to be substituted barely fifteen minutes before half-time after trying to beat a header with Tierna Davidson. The cameras showed a good part of Hatch going through tests to see if she could get back into the match, and after she apparently passed she was allowed to come back. About ten minutes later, Hatch would go under again and Tara McKeown came on to replace the NWSL’s second-top scorer in the 35th minute. The Ghost did well to regroup after the early substitution that should have fallen under the league’s new concussion protocol, but apparently not because of the wrong form being used.
Both clubs went 0-0 into halftime and probably felt equally good at their ability to defend the other. The Spirit took four shots with just two on target, while the Red Stars also had four shots, but the only one on goal was the half’s best chance – Watt’s goal finally saved Bledsoe.
The second half started as the first ended, with both teams battling for control of midfield without a clear winner. Although the Red Stars were able to break the wings at times, the Spirit defended well to make sure nothing dangerous got into Bledsoe. Then it was Spirit’s turn when a misplayed ricochet from DiBernardo allowed Sanchez to hold onto the ball and ride on to Alyssa Naeher for Washington’s best chance at the time. Sanchez stopped Krueger from going into the box and firing a shot, but Naeher blocked him with a jump save.
Kelley O’Hara, who was limited to thirty minutes by US Soccer, replaced Camryn Biegalski at right-back in the 63rd minute. Five minutes later, Natalie Jacobs replaces Emily Sonnett. The USWNT defender went down with a leg injury that didn’t seem too serious but wasn’t worth risking further aggravation. The Sonett substitution resulted in an interesting line-up change, as Sullivan fell into central defense alongside Staab, while Jacobs entered defensive midfield.
With Chicago suspecting that rejigging might give them the best chance at three points, confidence grows and pushes higher up the field to win the ball in dangerous areas. Mallory Pugh comes in behind McGrady for Chicago’s second best chance, but the angle was wide and Pugh’s shot can only hit the outside of the post. The Red Stars certainly feel that they can score the winning goal in the last ten minutes and open up.
Minutes later, the Red Stars were punished for their aggression when Rodman gave Washington the lead. It was similar to her first professional goal, with Andi Sullivan this time delivering a measured long ball that caught Rodman in the crotch. From there, Rodman held the Chicago defense off before shooting past Nahe in the 85th minute.
Now the spirit had some momentum and Rodman and Sanchez almost combined for another good shot on target. Rodman held the ball up on the left flank before giving Sanchez a precise square ball on the edge of the box. Sanchez showed nice footwork for working an angle from a defender but took one shot too long to shoot and her effort was blocked.
Then a belly blow.
A handball from Sam Staab gave the Red Stars the opportunity to equalize in stoppage time, Gautrat found the bottom corner of the net after sending Bledsoe in the wrong direction. Staab claimed the ball hit their side but referee Karen Abt did not buy it and both teams had to be content with some of the points.
Washington will be on the road for another week as they will visit Kansas City NWSL for the first time this Saturday, June 26th at 8:30 pm.
A full box score will be added later this evening.