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Spirit Keep Pace with NWSL Leaders, Ahead of Date with Carli Lloyd and the Dash

The stadium at Maryland SoccerPlex was packed with fans last Saturday night and the pitch was packed wth FIFA Women’s World Cup players, as the Spirit managed a 1-1 draw to keep pace with the National Women's Soccer League-leading Chicago Red Stars.

The game marked the return of Spirit Women’s World Cuppers Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris to the field, as the hosted Chicago with World Cup champs Julie Johnson, Christen Press and Lori Chalupny.

The Red Stars tested Harris and the Spirit defenders early, forcing Harris to make two outstanding saves that brought the 5,100 fans at the Plex to their feet. The Spirit came back and tested the Chicago keeper, Karina LaBlanc, who is also the keeper for the Canadian Women’s National Team.

But it was Chicago’s Press that got Chicago on the board in the 30th minute with a long, low shot to the left corner of Harris’s goal.

Spirit forward Laura del Rio, who had come close to scoring with a two shots in the first half, was stretchered off the field with what appeared to be an ankle injury two minutes for before half-time. Del Rio was taken to a local hospital. She suffered a non-displaced fibula fracture and will be out for the two or three months, according to the team. The Spirit would go into half-time down 1-0.

After half-time, the Spirit attack seemed to step up. In the 82nd minute the Spirit’s Christine Nairn evaded a defender and put a shot on goal which deflected off a Chicago player and Crystal Dunn followed up on the rebound and blasted the ball into the back of the net. Dunn with her ninth goal of the season, equalized for the Spirit bringing to score to 1-1.

Chicago would come right back with a chance from Press to the far corner, but Harris was there with an acrobatic save to keep the game tied.