Extra-time goal gives Spirit championship over Red Stars

Nov 20, 2021; Louisville, Kentucky, USA; The Washington Spirit celebrate after defeating the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL Championship match at Lynn Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

November 20, 2021

Kelly O’Hara scored the go-ahead goal seven minutes into extra time Saturday and the Washington Spirit won the NWSL championship game by rallying for a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars at Louisville, Ky.

O’Hara’s game-winner was her first goal of the season and came off a header following a long pass from Trinity Rodman.

It was Washington’s first NWSL championship and came after the Spirit finished in third place in the regular-season standings. There was no championship game in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Red Stars goalkeeper Cassie Miller had eight saves, while Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe had two saves. Bledsoe, who was named game MVP, had a diving save on Chicago’s Makenzy Doniak in the 116th minute to preserve the victory and the title.

The Spirit’s victory over the Red Stars came after they went 0-2-1 against them in the regular season.

The Red Stars took a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time when Rachel Hill delivered on a header from near the right post after a cross from Arin Wright.

The Spirit made their move in the second half after Chicago’s Mallory Pugh did not return after halftime because of injury. Pugh, a NWSL MVP candidate, was injured on a hard tackle late in the first half.

The 19-year-old Rodman had some dangerous chances early in the second half before sending a pass into the penalty area to Tara McKeown in the 66th minute. McKeown was taken down by Chicago’s Tierna Davidson, earning an attempt from the penalty spot.

Washington’s Andi Sullivan delivered on the penalty shot in the 67th minute, just under the reach of Miller.

Washington had a 31-14 edge in shots.

The championship game ended a tumultuous season for the NWSL after North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley was accused of sexual coercion by multiple players. Riley was fired, while NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned her post.

(Field Level Media)

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