On a rain-soaked night in Boyds, Maryland the Chicago Red Stars overcame a depleted lineup to beat the Washington Spirit 2-0. Chicago had not gotten a win since they beat the Houston Dash 3-0 at home on April 18th. The victory moved Chicago (3W-6D-3L) into a three-way tie for third place with the Orlando Pride and Portland Thorns FC, all of whom have 15 points on the season. The loss leaves Washington (2W-2D-7L) in eighth place after 11 games.
Weather cast a shadow on the game
For the first time in the two-year partnership, the LifeTime Game of the Week was canceled by inclement weather. Just after the playing of the national anthem, the lightning warning system at the Maryland SoccerPlex sounded and the fans and players were moved away from the stadium. After waiting over an hour and analyzing the future weather conditions the game was postponed until 9:00 pm.
When play resumed at nine, five hours after the original kick-off was scheduled, the field was soaked and rain was pouring down on the players. What followed was a depressing display as both teams struggled to move the ball and maintain possession. Fouls occurred early and often as players were unable to maintain their footing or control their movements with the usual precision. The Red Stars managed to get their first goal in the 25th minute when midfielder Yuki Nagasato took a free kick from just outside the box. The placement of the shot toward the bottom-left corner of the goal was excellent, and Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys failed to control the ball that skipped off the ground just in front of her. The ball bounce to the top of the six-yard box where Chicago forward Sam Kerr was running in to finish the chance. As the first half continued, visible puddles began to form on the pitch further reducing the quality of play.
The rain relented enough for the field to drain at halftime, and the ball moved better in the second half. The quality of play did not improve much, though. Just after the second half started, Chicago forward Alyssa Mautz found Nagasato at the top of the box, and she sent a powerful shot skipping past Wys into the left side of the net. The quick strike energized the Spirit, but they were never able to mount enough sustained offensive pressure to score on rookie goalkeeper Emily Boyd. The Spirit played hard for the next 30 minutes, but after the 75th minute the game slowed down and the teams were ready to get out of the elements. The game would end 2-0 in favor of Chicago.
Missing players changed the game
Both sides were missing significant pieces from their squads. For Chicago, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, forward Sofia Huerta and midfielder Julie Ertz were all away training with the United States Women's National Team. The replacements for Chicago had all gotten significant minutes, minus Boyd who had not played in the regular season to this point, and it was clear that the team was ready to work together. The Spirit, on the other hand, were unable to find suitable replacements for injured forward Mallory Pugh or Nigerian forward Francisca Ordega, who was away playing for her nation. Head coach Jim Gaberra tried moving outside defender Taylor Smith to forward for this game, but she was largely ineffectual. When asked to describe his team's performance in three words after the game, Gaberra chose "poor, shitty, and inept."
Both teams will be off this weekend during the June FIFA break. The USWNT will play two matches against China on Thursday and Sunday of this week.