Spirit’s World Cup winners back in lineup in tie
SPIRIT 1, RED STARS 1
It was a point-salvaging scramble on a night when few opportunities presented themselves for the Washington Spirit.
Washington forward Francisca Ordega swiped the ball from Chicago midfielder Lori Chalupny during an attempted clearance. The ball then found its way to Spirit midfielder Christine Nairn, who juked three defenders and fired. She missed.
Ordega might have got the ball back. She might have taken a shot of her own. But through all the commotion, no one can really remember.
What they do know, however, is forward Crystal Dunn finally got the ball and rifled a shot from 18 yards that deflected off Chicago goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc’s hand and into the bottom left of the net.
Dunn’s goal tied the match, 1-1, in the 83rd minute. And that’s how the match finished to give both teams a point. With the tie, Washington (6-4-3, 20 points) avoided its first home loss of the season and remained in third place in the National Women’s Soccer League standings.
Chicago (7-1-5, 26 points) remains in first place.
“It’s just important to get the ball to the players that have the ability and we finally started to do that,” Washington General Manager and Coach Mark Parsons said. “I thought we could score every time we got faced up. We got faced up, it was a bit scrappy. But we know if we give it to Crystal in the 18, she’s going to get a goal.”
Before the match, former Washington Freedom goalkeeper Briana Scurry, who won a World Cup with the United States in 1999, appeared in front of a near sellout crowd that came to Maryland SoccerPlex after last week’s 3-0 Washington victory over the Seattle Reign, when Spirit World Cup winners Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris returned to Maureen Hendricks Field though they didn’t play.
“It’s an honor to be on this field and witness the newworld champions. Stand up! They deserve it!” Scurry said before riling up the crowd.
There were five World Cup winners between the two lineups Saturday. Harris started in goal for Washington while Krieger played away from her natural right back position at defensive midfielder. Chalupny, defender Julie Johnston and forward Christen Press got the start for Chicago.
In the 30th minute, it was Press who got her team on the scoreboard first, firing a shot from 25 yards out past Harris.
“Press is hard to stop. She’s hard to stop,” Harris said. “Her shot, her goal. I mean, that’s class. To pick your head up with that much pace, that far out and just putit in the bottom corner, there’s a reason why she’s one of the best forwards in the world.”
And unlike LeBlanc, Harris didn’t get a glove on the ball.
The save that evaded Harris on Press’s goal in the first half came moments after Dunn tied the game. A Chicago scramble arose in front of Washington’s goal, and a Red Star player got a foot on the ball.
“I turned away because it was a goal,” Parsons said.
But it was actually a save. Somehow, Harris got a hand on the ball, deflecting it out of bounds.
“Sometimes you just do the right thing, get a lucky bounce,” Harris said. “It just spit out the other side of the goal. So I did my job I guess.”
Dunn’s goal delivered Washington the tie. But Harris, in her first NWSL match in three months, secured the Spirit a point with her clutch save.
“To get Ash back to make saves like that — no one else in the league . . . ” Parsons paused. “In the last three years, no one has made those saves.”