Spirit show promise in 2-1 win over Chicago
Updated: Aug 3
The Washington Spirit kicked off their Challenge Cup journey with a promising 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars. With the debuts of Ashley Sanchez, a talented UCLA product, Averie Collins a Stanford standout, an infusion of youthful play and talent further supplemented the glaring talent of the Spirit. With an early goal in the eighth minute from USWNT star, Rose Lavelle, the Spirit took the reins and never let go.
Having dominated play for the majority of the match, the Spirit’s artful play and clear chemistry left the Red Stars chasing. The Red Stars were clearly struggling following the off-season loss of one of the best players of all time and leading goal scorer, Samantha Kerr. Multiple trades later, the Red Stars were able to acquire Kealia Watt, Houston Dash standout, and Rachel Hill, a key player for the Orlando Pride to supplement their attack. However, the Chicago side didn’t seem to know how to play as a unit yet and their disorganization showed, despite the leadership of USWNT stars Julie Ertz and Alyssa Naeher.
The Spirit, a scrappy team, saw this and exploited Chicago's weaknesses. Aubrey Bledsoe, one of the most talented goalkeepers in the league, made several incredible saves, especially when the likes of some of the younger players left the box exposed. Consistent leaders, Tori Huster and Paige Nielsen delivered crunching tackles, frequently shutting down the Red Stars offense. Offensive pressure on the Red Stars began to pick up even more in the forty sixth minute with a goal from BYU alum, Ashley Hatch, continuing the rush of momentum for the Spirit. Just five minutes later, Red Stars midfielder Morgan Gautrat (formerly known as Brian), another USWNT standout scored for the Red Stars. However, the Red Stars were unable to capitalize on their momentum from that goal as much as they would have liked to and fell victim to the Spirit. Though both teams have had to work to integrate new players, personalities, and playing styles onto their teams, the Spirit’s cohesion only gives us hope as to what will come.
Thus far, Rose Lavelle, Ashley Sanchez, Jordan Dibiasi, and Aubrey Bledsoe, have proven to be some of the players to watch out for. The Spirit will return to action against the reigning NWSL champions, The North Carolina Courage on Wednesday, July 1st at 10pm Eastern Time.
Photo: Bryan Byerly/ ISI Photos