Needing three points to hop into the top three on the table, the Washington Spirit huffed and puffed but it was the Chicago Red Stars who hit on the counter and fling Washington into a playoff battle.
Despite eight minutes of stoppage time, the Spirit still couldn’t find a goal. All the points slipped away as the Spirit’s chances went begging and Chicago found moments on the counter. Now the Spirit are hovering near the playoff line with just four games to go.
- Ugh. The Finishing Gods are consistent. If you don’t score when you have either a bunch of chances, or a really good chance, they turn on you. The Spirit racked up 21 shots and converted none, the Red Stars only had five and scored twice.
- Oof. “It was a bad day to have a bad day,” said head coach Mark Parsons postgame. Not only was it extremely hot to begin the match,the Spirit also struggled to play collectively as a team. They don’t have a habit of doing this, but why it happened on this day, so late in the season, is something the coaching staff will have to spend this mini-break figuring out.
- Annoying. This rather unexpected loss is a big boost for Chicago as they prepare to rebuild for next season, but in the more immediate future it tosses the Spirit into a potential playoff scrap. A win would’ve seen them reach at least third on the table, as it stands they’re now hovering by the playoff line with just four matches remaining (Gotham, Kansas City, Seattle, and North Carolina).
With Chicago Red Stars mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last week, it was up to the Spirit to not allow them to play the role of spoiler. Thanks to Louisville’s surprise comeback win over Portland, and Gotham’s three-goal fight back to draw North Carolina, three points for the Spirit would catapult them to second or third on the table, depending on San Diego’s weekend point total.
The match began with the Spirit well aware that a goal would make the match much easier, especially considering the near 100° heat, and peppered Alyssa Naeher’s goal. Trinity Rodman was an unsurprising bright spot, as she tormented the left side of the defense, whipping in dangerous crosses and taking shots.
Ouley Sarr on the right was doing her best to be an equal part menace to Chicago’s defense. She’s continued linking well in attack and sent in a few good crosses toward Hatch that narrowly missed.
Without having conceded a goal, the Red Stars grew in confidence and could start to take risks. After going to their respective locker rooms at 0-0, Chicago came out and unbalanced the Spirit to score with their first shot on target.
Casey Krueger did good work on the buildup down the left and sent in a perfectly curling ball that Bianca St. Georges headed home on the doorstep.
Now instead of one goal to grab all three points, the Spirit needed at least two.
Things unfortunately got worse from there, as the Spirit let in a second thirteen minutes later in the 61st minute. Chicago once again got into the box, displayed a bit of patience and a cutback was easily swept into the back of the net by Yuki Nagasato.
Now two goals would be needed just to find a point, and three to take the maximum allocation. While the Spirit kept peppering the goal, they weren’t creating high percentage chance, which was giving Alyssa Naeher chances to be aggressive and pull off quality saves.
The Spirit were now right where Chicago wanted them, with them having to push and Chicago being able to pick their spots on the counter. One such counter nearly saw St. Georges grab her second as she received the ball in the box but had her shot bounce off the base of Kingsbury’s near post.
NWSL Regular Season – Game 18
Washington Spirit – 0
Chicago Red Stars – 2 (48′, St. Georges; 61′, Nagasato)
Washington Spirit (433): Kingsbury; Carle, Staab, McKeown, Butel (Bailey, 74′); Metayer (Brooks, 74′), Sullivan, Sanchez; Sarr (Biegalski, 85′), Hatch, Rodman
Chicago Red Stars (4231): Naeher; Wright, Davidson, Krueger, Milazzo (Sharples, 78′); Bianchi, Roccaro; Hocking (Schlegel, 87′), Nagasato, St. Georges; Stevens (Cook, 68′)
Spirit: Butel, 64′
Red Stars: Hocking, 39′