The Washington Spirit claimed a share of the NWSL lead and won their third straight game after shutting out the Chicago Red Stars in a 2-0 victory at SeatGeek Stadium on Sunday evening. The Spirit are now tied with league leaders Utah on points.
Chicago nearly took an early 1-0 lead in the 7th minute after Red Stars attacker Vanessa Di Bernardo connected with a line-drive shot from the right side of the six yard box that passed Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe, but a reacting header by defender Paige Nielsen on the goal line prevented the ball from clearing over, keeping the match scoreless.
The Spirit took the lead early in the 9th minute after Sam Staab connected off a corner from Jordan DiBiasi, sending a tricky ball towards goal. After a few bobbles on the line, a failed clearance by Red Stars midfielder Yuki Nagasato deflected off of keeper Emily Boyd for an own goal, putting the Spirit up 1-0.
It was the first own goal conceded by the Red Stars in the last six years.
At the half, the Spirit owned a majority of the ball with 54 percent of the possession, and lead the game in passing percentage with a 74 percent completion rate. The Spirit pressed effectively and forced mistakes from Chicago, who completed passes at only a 67 percent rate.
The Spirit doubled their lead in the 63rd minute after a cross from the right wing by Arielle Ship connected with Ashley Hatch on the right corner of the six-yard box, stretching her foot past defender Katie Naughton and tapping the ball out of Boyd’s reach.
In a match which saw a total of 18 shots by the Red Stars, Aubrey Bledsoe recorded seven saves and tallied her third clean sheet of the season, including an incredible save in the 90+4th minute in which she sprawled to her right, stopping a low-driven attempt from Casey Short.
Prior to Sunday’s match, the Red Stars were unbeaten in their last nine matches at SeatGeek Stadium (6W-3D). The Spirit claimed their first three-game win streak since the 2016 campaign.
The Spirit return home to the Maryland SoccerPlex to play against Utah Royals FC on this Saturday, June 1 at 7:00 pm in a battle for sole possession of first place in the NWSL.
Photo courtesy Washington Spirit and NWSL.