The Washington Spirit seem dead set on late drama at Segra Field, this time winning 2-1 over the Chicago Red Stars thanks to Jessie Scarpa’s stoppage time game-winner. Last week, Scarpa won an 89th minute penalty kick only for Sky Blue to score a winner in stoppage time, but this week things went Washington’s way against the Red Stars, who lost Savannah McCaskill to a first half red card.
While Washington held most of the early possession, it was Chicago who looked more dangerous, with Red Stars players able to get on the ball in the box repeatedly. Just as the Spirit began to solve that problem, they went behind 1-0 in the 26th minute. A giveaway in the Washington half eventually ended with Savannah McCaskill drifting in from the right before feeding Kealia Watt on the left side of the box. Watt pushed play forward with her first touch before picking out Sarah Luebbert, who nipped in unmarked for a tap-in from 4 yards out.
A similar move ended with Luebbert forcing a save out of Bledsoe in the 36th minute, while the Spirit, for all their possession, only had a handful of corner kicks to show for it. Alyssa Naeher had to make her first save as Sam Staab’s header from one of those services went goalward, but the game’s next big talking point came in the 42nd minute. With Chicago trying to counter after a corner, Savannah McCaskill clattered into Dorian Bailey near midfield. Referee Josh Encarnacion didn’t hesitate, giving McCaskill her second yellow card of the match and leaving Chicago with 10 players.
Moments after the red card, the Spirit carved out their best chance of the match, with Kumi Yokoyama — who started on the right, but spent much of the game playing as a false 9 — sliding a through ball into the Red Stars box for Katie McClure. The rookie forward escaped her marker well, but slipped as she shot, skewing the ball wide of the post.
The Spirit ratcheted up the pressure to start the second half, with two different penalty kick claims in the first 10 minutes being turned down by Encarnacion, and three shots flying wide of Naeher’s goal.
However, the early push for an equalizer never quite panned out, and in truth Chicago got through the middle portion of the second half with little trouble. A 68th minute cross from Jenna Hellstrom, on as a sub after Natalie Jacobs left with an apparent ankle injury, nearly floated in at the back post, and that represented the best Washington look of a nearly 20-minute span.
That cross was a signal of intent, though, and the Spirit got level in the 71st minute. This time the cross came from Dorian Bailey on the left, and though the initial ball couldn’t be turned on goal, it fell to Bayley Feist, who set herself up with her first touch before firing past Naeher from seven yards out.
Naeher did very well to make a close-range save as Feist crashed the net following a Meggie Dougherty Howard free kick in the 74th minute as the Spirit were camping out in the Red Stars half. Richie Burke, sensing the chance to win the game late, shifted into a 343 in the 81st minute, with wingbacks Hellstrom and Bailey pushing so high that Washington had fve forwards at times.
A wild sequence in the 85th minute saw the Spirit nearly bundle in a corner, though it appeared the goal wouldn’t have counted due to a foul called on Crystal Thomas pursuing the ball. Chicago launched their first attack in over half an hour, with Watt firing from out on the right and hitting the bar. Substitute Dani Rhodes, who recently signed with Chicago on a short-term deal, got to the rebound first only to be denied by Aubrey Bledsoe, who somehow popped up off the ground to save the Spirit.
Just as eight minutes of stoppage time were announced, Spirit rookie Meghan McCool forced Naeher into a double save from point-blank range after holding off Zoe Morse.
Finally, the pressure paid off, with substitute Jessie Scarpa once again making a late impact. This time, Crystal Thomas showed her typical persistence, fighting through a 92nd minute tackle from Bianca St. Georges before crossing to the back post for Scarpa, whose sliding finish left Naeher with no chance to make a save.
The Spirit comfortably defended their late lead this time, with Chicago exhausted from playing short-handed for so much of the match, and walked off with their first Fall Series win. Washington will get a week off before returning to play against this same Chicago side, this time at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL. That game will take place on September 26th at 1:00pm Eastern.
NWSL Fall Series - Game 2
Washington Spirit 2 (Feist 71, Scarpa 92+)
Chicago Red Stars 1 (Luebbert 26)
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe (C); Natalie Jacobs (Jenna Hellstrom 67), Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Dorian Bailey; Bayley Feist, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Jaye Boissiere (Meghan McCool 46); Kumi Yokoyama (Crystal Thomas 81), Katie McClure (Brooke Hendrix 81), Ashley Sanchez (Jessie Scarpa 88)
Red Stars (433): Alyssa Naeher; Bianca St. Georges, Zoe Morse, Hannah Davison, Zoey Goralski; Vanessa DiBernardo (C), Danny Colaprico, Morgan Gautrat (Aerial Chavarin 85); Savannah McCaskill, Kealia Watt (Camryn Biegalski 95+), Sarah Luebbert (Dani Rhodes 85)
Spirit - Dougherty Howard 28
Red Stars - McCaskill 27, McCaskill 42 (sent off)