Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Spirit – NWSL Challenge Cup Day #1

by: Seth Casiple | @SCasiple

Yesterday the National Women’s Soccer League kicked off with the Washington Spirit defeating the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in the second game of the day.

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The game was played at a high pace throughout with both teams using plenty of energy eager to impress at the beginning of this month-long tournament. Both had 7 shots with 3 on goal, while Chicago enjoyed 56% possession compared to Washington’s 44.  Rose Lavelle opened the scoring in the 9th minute after important dispossession just outside her own half and an incisive pass to feed Ashley Hatch, Hatch’s opportunity was saved by the foot of Alyssa Naeher but left a rebound to the onrushing Lavelle.

We would have to wait until the second half for more scoring action. In the 46th minute Naeher failed to clear a pass back from her defender quickly. Hatch closed her down, blocked her clearance, and poked the ball home.

Chicago was able to respond to going two goals down almost immediately. In the 51st minute Morgan Gautrat (formerly Brian) expertly finished a loose ball fallen to her 16 yards from goal. A spell of possession in Washington’s half saw the Red Stars swarming the opposing box after a fortuitous deflection Gautrat showed great composure to pick a spot and drive Chicago to within one goal.

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The end of the game was not without drama though, as Aubrey Bledsoe produced a fantastic save from a genuine scoring opportunity inside her six-yard box. Not 3 minutes after in the 92nd minute, Naeher palmed a header over her bar to save her team 3 points.

Two goals in the early minutes really nailed the Spirit’s theme for this game. They were stout defensively, creative in the midfield, and energetic upfront. Hatch made plenty of vertical runs stretching space between Chicago’s lines of defense and she was rewarded for her work with a goal. Rose Lavelle was a bright spot for Washington, extremely mobile and technically gifted she toyed with Chicago’s midfield controlling possession and exploiting dangerous space in behind. After a good 65 minute shift last night I am looking to see her minutes grow in the tournament as she fights to find full fitness.

If you would like to know three players to watch for each team in this tournament check out this article by my colleague Becca Rightnour.

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