Despite holding nearly two-thirds of the possession on the night, the Washington Spirit fell 1-0 to the Chicago Red Stars last night at Segra Field, snapping a five-game unbeaten streak. A first half Chicago corner kick that ultimately ended with what was officially credited as a Julia Roddar own goal saw the Spirit lose for the first time since May 21.
After the NWSL deemed it unfit earlier in the season, Segra Field played host to its first regular season Spirit match. The Red Stars came into the match fresh in the midst of a pretty poor run of results. One of the only things more precarious than facing a desperate team, is facing a desperate experienced team. In their last match, the Spirit had to deal with another such desperate club in Kansas City, and it took some late game heroics to flip the match on its head.
However, the match began very much in the mold of current form: The Spirit dominated possession and were easily handling Chicago’s attempts to move the ball forward on the rare moments they were allowed to have the ball.
With the broadcast noting that Aubrey Bledsoe was playing with a broken thumb, all eyes were on the Spirit’s goalkeeper. A 33rd minute corner that came from Bledsoe swatting at a ball last touched by Chicago. Mallory Pugh, again punishing her old club, served the ball in, where it was headed on goal by Kayla Sharples before appearing to hit Roddar, then Bledsoe in the face, then back off of Roddar’s head before bouncing towards goal. Sharples crashed the rebound to make sure, but the goal was officially credited as an own goal on Roddar.
The Spirit did well not to let the goal throw them off their game, as they continued to control possession and move the Red Stars’ defense around. There were some half chances created, with the best probably being a long distance shot from Andi Sullivan that spun just wide of the far post minutes after Chicago’s goal.
Teams went into halftime with a scoreline that that wasn’t an accurate representation of the run of play. Nevertheless, the Spirit were tasked with having to make up a deficit to get a result.
Seconds into the second half the Spirit forced the first save from Cassie Miller, as Trinity Rodman latched onto a long ball, held off multiple Chicago defenders and fired low toward the far post. Miller got just enough of her fingertips on it to ensure it rolled wide in what turned out to be her only save of the game. At the other end, the Red Stars threatened to double their lead with a wicked shot that required a much more acrobatic save from Bledsoe to deny Kealia Watt.
With the game now stretched and the teams trading shots at each end of the pitch, it seemed only a matter of who would find the right combination of passes to get the ball across the line. However, before that could happen, Rodman went down in some considerable pain after jockeying along the touchline. The delay lasted a few minutes as the training staff tended to Rodman who eventually rose back to her feet. Tara McKeown eventually replaced Rodman, who per head coach Richie Burke was suffering from back spasms.
The Spirit continued to seek the equalizer, but despite several looks, they couldn’t quite get a strike to evade the various shins of Red Stars players, as Chicago made block after block.
A bit of luck, and lack of goalline technology, gifted the Spirit a chance to keep a result within reach late on. After a Chicago counter, Watt beat Bledsoe with a curler that pinged off the underside of the bar and bounced straight down. On replay it was certainly across the line, but Bledsoe for quickly collected the ball and rolled it forward, and neither referee JC Griggs or the near-side assistant referee gave the goal.
With ten minutes left to find an equalizer, Burke opted to bring on Kumi Yokoyama, remove defenders Paige Nielsen and Tegan McGrady, and finish the game with a midfielder (Andi Sullivan) and a wide attacker (Anna Heilferty) playing defensive roles.
The Spirit continued to do good work to free players on both flanks, but the ensuing crosses floated harmlessly into Miller’s grasp. Washington kept winning the ball high and pushing it into dangerous areas, only for the Red Stars to keep coming up with defensive plays to preserve the shutout.
Washington will hope to get back on a winning run with two more home games coming up. They’ll return to action this Saturday, July 10, hosting the North Carolina Courage at Audi Field at 7:00pm.
NWSL Regular Season - Game 8
Washington Spirit 0
Chicago Red Stars 1 (Roddar 33og)
Spirit (4312): Aubrey Bledsoe; Julia Roddar (Anna Heilferty 67), Paige Nielsen (Kumi Yokoyama 80), Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady (Camryn Biegalski 80); Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan (C), Dorian Bailey; Ashley Sanchez; Trinity Rodman (Tara McKeown 61), Ashley Hatch
Red Stars (4231): Cassie Miller; Arin Wright, Kayla Sharples, Sarah Gorden, Casey Krueger; Sarah Woldmoe, Morgan Gautrat; Makenzy Doniak (Rachel Hill 70), Vanessa DiBernardo (C), Mallory Pugh (Katie Johnson 93+); Kealia Watt (Alyssa Mautz 84)
Spirit - None
Red Stars - None