The Washington Spirit earned an important three points Saturday night to remain in the hunt for the lead in the National Women’s Soccer League. The Spirit remain in third place with 23 points are 7-2-2 this season, with a game in hand on most of the league and two games on the league-leading Portland Thorns FC. Portland leads the NWSL with 26 points in 13 games.
The Spirit defeated Chicago 2-0 in front of 3,631 fans at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds on Saturday night. The Spirit got goals from Estefania Banini and Katie Stengel. Banini’s goal came in the 20th minute, and Stengel’s came in the 74th minute, seconds after she entered the game as a sub.
“We wanted to make sure we started the second half just as we started the first half,” said general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “Playing against Chicago they’re always going to come out playing pretty fast at the beginning of the game and at each half, and they’re not going to quit.”
In the 20th minute, the Spirit scored its first goal of the game when midfielder Christine Nairn sent a pass to the feet of Banini at the top of the box. Banini played the ball to Francisca Ordega. Ordega set up the give and go with a pass back to Banini as she ran into the box. Banini drilled the ball toward the Red Stars goalkeeper Michele Dalton. Dalton got a piece of the shot, but it was not enough, as the shot sailed passed her into the bottom right corner.
In the 73rd minute, Stengel replaced Ordega just as the Spirit earned a corner kick. Nairn launched a well-placed corner kick into the box. Just seconds after being subbed in, Stengel headed the ball, her first touch of the match, into the back of the net.
Goalkeeper Kelsey Wys earned her second shutout of the season. She recorded a huge save in the 60th minute. A Chicago cross from the right
flank floated just outside the six yard box. Red Star defender Arin Gilliland jumped on the cross, sending a strong header toward the far post. However, Wys denied the equalizer with a full extension diving save to deflect the ball out of play.
After a four game home stand which was The Spirit go 3-1 in front of hometown fans, they will be on the for the next two weeks. The Spirit will be
on the road next Saturday to play FC Kanas City and will play the first end of a home and home series against regional rival Sky Blue FC in New Jersey on July 23. The Spirit are back at the Plex on July 30 for the back of the series with Sky Blue FC on Saturday, July 30.
Top: Spirited celebration: Christine Nairn (7) lifts Katie Stengel (12) in the air in celebration after Stengel headed a corner kick from Nairn past the Chicago goalkeeper to give the Spirit a 2-0 lead.
Next: Chicago goalkeeper Michele Dalton (18) stretches to get a glove on Estefania Banini’s shot which would find the back of the net in the 20th minute to give the Spirt a 1-0 lead.
Next: Franny Ordega (14) heads a ball in the first half of Saturday’s 2-0 win over Chicago.
Next: Spirit goalie Kelsey Wys makes a diving stop to maintain her second clean sheet this season.
Next: Spirit defender Estelle Johnson (24) stretches to stop Chicago’s Amanda DeCosta (13) during Saturday’s game.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.