During the wind and rain at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, the Washington Spirit played the Chicago Red Stars to a draw, 1-1.
Starting hard and fast, the Washington Spirit (1-2-2) gained control of the ball and scored the first goal of the match early on against the Chicago Red Stars (2-1-3). In the fourth minute, Spirit forward and U.S. international player Mallory Pugh brought the ball on a solo trip up the right side of the field, turned toward net at the penalty box and crossed the ball right in front of Red Star keeper Alyssa Naehr.
Open Spirit forward Frannie Ordega collected the ball just outside the frame and booted it and herself into the back of the net. The ball got to the back of the net first. In a surprise repeat of an early goal in another recent match, the Spirit had cashed in on an early opportunity, stunning the opposition. Ordgea scored her third goal in three matches, and the Spirit were up one to nil over the Red Stars with 86 long minutes ahead of them.
Undaunted, the Red Stars fired back. On a half-field free kick, Spirit keeper Audrey Bledsoe deflected the shot, putting it back into the center of the field. Unfortunately for the Spirit, Red Star player Alyssa Mautz found the deflected wayward ball in the middle of the box and fired it through an opening of Spirit defenders right into the net. By Mautz’s use of a second-chance opportunity off a deflected free kick, she leveled the score 1-1. The Spirit gave away that goal.
The remainder of the first half found the Red Stars with the greatest possession of the ball but not always able to retain possession through the Spirit midfield. The Spirit’s midfield was doing well at taking the ball back from the Red Stars. At the end of the first half, the score remained level at 1-1 with neither team owning the match.
Second-half play picked up where the first half left off. Both teams were attacking and defending well, creating some opportunities but neither team was able to fully close. One of the more exciting pieces of the second half was the near-disaster injury to Spirit keeper Bledsoe. At one point, off a Red Star corner kick, Spirit keeper Audrey Bledsoe realized her only chance to save a goal was to tip the ball back out or she would be in the goal with the ball; so she stretched out to deflect the ball. Her fellow defender Caprice Dydesco had her leg in the air going for the ball, resulting in Bledsoe's taking a cleat in the face. The goal was stopped, but Bledsoe ate cleat.
Bledsoe said of the incident, “It hurt a little bit, but my teeth are still there and everything’s good.”
The Spirit are now 1-2-2, carrying 5 points and sitting in fifth place in the league. They are two points behind Seattle and three points behind Portland. Winning their next game, which is against the Utah Royals FC, could vault the Spirit into fourth place. Unfortunately, the Royals are the only team other than the Spirit to score against the North Carolina Courage, and Utah leveled that match at two each. The Spirit will be playing against a Utah team that is quickly gelling their game. It promises to be a very tough match.
Game time is 9:00 p.m. ET from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. It will be carried live on www.go90.com.
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