Francisca Ordega scored just before halftime to help the Washington Spirit scrape a 1-1 tie on the road against the Chicago Red Stars. Chicago was the favorite this afternoon, but couldn’t create much against a stubborn Spirit side. Chicago’s lone goal of the match came via a Christen Press penalty kick late in the second half.
USWNT phenom Mallory Pugh was out due to an ankle injury she picked up on national team duty, while Tori Huster remained sidelined with a quad strain. Head coach Jim Gabarra had his team play out of a 4-4-2 instead of the more familiar 4-3-3. Kassey Kallman, starting for the first time since May 13th, got the nod at left back while Alyssa Kleiner started at on the left side of midfield. Elsewhere, midfielder Kristie Mewis was deployed as a withdrawn forward underneath Ordega.
Chicago dominated in the game’s early minutes, as was largely expected. Stephanie Labbe was forced to make two strong blocks in the first 6 minutes. First, Labbe tipped a hard shot from Danielle Colaprico just wide. Colaprico had another shot from the ensuing corner, but despite traffic in front of her, Labbe pushed it over the bar. Press had a hard shot in the 19th minute, but the ball went right to Labbe.
Despite a handful of moments where the Red Stars nearly found Press alone in front of goal, or used a quick switch to expose a one-on-one, the Spirit slowly managed to turn the game into one mostly consisting of long balls and turnovers. What attacks Washington managed were mostly Mewis and Ordega exploiting transitions, with few runners joining them.
That method ended up leading to a goal from Ordega in the 42nd minute. Cheyna Williams, in the Spirit’s own half, sent a long ball forward to Ordega who took a touch 45 yards from goal. That touch, and a fortunate bounce, got her past Samantha Johnson. Ordega used her speed to evade Katie Naughton in the box before slipping a shot past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher from about 5 yards out. In typical Ordega fashion, a memorable celebration followed the goal, her third on the season.
Williams started on the right wing before swapping positions with Ordega in the middle of the half for about 10 minutes (a move that saw Williams draw a yellow card against Naughton at one point). After a hydration break obliged by hot and humid conditions, the two switched back to their original roles.
Much like the start of the game, Chicago started the second half on the front foot, sending numbers forward and trying to break through with combinations involving Press. While Mewis had the first real shot of the half (an effort that went straight to Naeher), the best early look went to the Red Stars.
Vanessa DiBernardo had been quiet for a while, but she found some space between the lines to surge into the attack. Eventually, with no challenges coming, she fired a shot that seemed destined for the top corner only to be denied by an incredible save from Labbe.
Spirit defender Caprice Dydasco entered the game in the 61st minute, replacing Alyssa Kleiner. This was Dydasco’s first game since tearing her ACL in the NWSL final last fall. Dydasco played well for a player coming off a long absence, showing no fear despite this being her first real game since October.
Red Stars coach Rory Dames, perhaps frustrated with how things were going, made a double sub with about twenty minutes left. Summer Green and Sarah Gorden came in, while Dames made the uncommon choice of pulling both of his center backs to make way. Gabarra, looking to protect the lead, sent Line Sigvardsen Jensen in for Williams, with Havana Solaun moving out to the wing while the Dane took over in central midfield alongside Meggie Dougherty Howard.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. In the 81st minute, Casey Short fought through traffic to feed a ball down the left flank for Press, who was making a run in behind. Press touched the ball past Shelina Zadorsky, whose tackle ended up tripping the USWNT forward. Zadorsky got a yellow card and the ref called a penalty kick, which Press converted by shooting into the lower right-hand corner.
The final minutes were a bit better for the Spirit, who managed some offensive activity, but both teams appeared to be exhausted and the game petered out without any further scoring chances.
Next week, the Spirit return home to face the Portland Thorns on June 24th. The game kicks off at 7pm, and the Spirit Squadron are hosting their own Pride Night at the Soccerplex.