Spirit Beats Chicago in Overtime to Advance to NWSL Championship
The Washington Spirit defeated the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in overtime on Friday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex to advance to the Nationa Women’s Soccer League Championship game for the first time in the team’s four-year history.
The Spirit will await the outcome of Sunday’s NWSL semi-final match between the Portland Thorns and Western New York Flash to find out who they will play in the NWSL Championship game. The NWSL Final will be played on Sunday, Oct. 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
As a thrilling and hard-fought game, the game-winning goal in the 111th minute by Nigerian national team player Francisca Ordega vaulted the Washington Spirit to a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over the Chicago Red Stars on Friday night, as 4,249 fans packed the Maryland SoccerPlex for an NWSL semifinal match.
After the teams had played to a 1-1 stalemate in the first 90 minutes of play, the Spirit defense clamped down, and Ordega provided the big score, finishing off a beautifully-placed pass along the in-line from midfielder Christine Nairn.
In regulation, the teams traded scores with the Spirit controlling possession and eventually finding the net during the first half.
The Spirit struck first with a powerful header by U.S. Women’s National Team star Ali Krieger, taking the lead in the 36th minute. Krieger bolted into the box and was hit perfectly in stride with an aerial pass from Shelina Zadorsky, heading the ball in before the defense had time to react.
“It was a team win, and you could see that from the goals that we scored. They involved the entire team,” Krieger said. “That’s what’s been so great about the season for us. We play for each other; we respect each other, and you can see that in how we perform.”
Washington closed out a relatively one-sided first half effort with five corner kicks compared to none for the Red Stars and did not allow a Chicago shot on goal until the closing minutes of the first half.
Chicago began clicking offensively in the second half, winning the possession battle and stringing together several deep runs with Team USA forward Christen Press leading the attack. Following a save by Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys on a Danielle Colaprico shot in the 69th minute, the Red Stars finally got on the board with an 81st-minute equalizer by Press.
Press scored the short range goal on an assist from Casey Short, working her way deep into the box and connecting on the shot with only a tight window to navigate.
With the game tied at 1-1, the Red Stars continued to push the tempo, as Press took two more shots on goal in the final 12 minutes of regulation and stoppage time. The first came in the 85th minute, as the Chicago captain missed wide.
In stoppage time, Press had an empty net opportunity after she beat Wys with a stop-and-go move, but her shot bounced off the left post.
After dodging a bullet in the final moments of regulation, the Spirit took charge during extra time and stamped their ticket to Houston with team-wide execution on both sides of the pitch.
Washington will face either the Portland Thorns or Western New York Flash in the title match on Sunday, October 9 at 5:00 pm. The NWSL Final will be played at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Top: Game winner. Francisca Ordega (14) scores the game-winning goal on a cross from Christine Nairn. Ordega put the pall in the corner of the goal passed Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (1).
Next: Scramble in front: Spirit captain Ali Krieger (11) scrambles for the ball with Chicago Red Star defenders Cara Walls (12), Julie Johnston (8) and goalie Alyssa Naeher (1) in the first half of Friday’s semi-final playoff game.
Next: Washington Spirit captain Ali Krieger (11) would score the first Spirit’s first goal of Friday’s semi-final game.
Next: The Spirit prevailed in a hard fought game in as a cold mist fell the entire game. Spirt midfielder Johanna Lohman tangles with Chicago’s Danielle Colaprico (24).
Photos by Germantown Pulse.