Spirit’s World Cup win­ners back in lineup in tie

SPIRIT 1, RED STARS 1

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY AARON DOD­SON aaron.dod­son@wash­post.com

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.”

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