The Washington Spirit look to snap a three-game skid and get a taste of revenge when they make their first visit to the Benedictine University Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill., to clash with the Chicago Red Stars (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET).
The Spirit (1-10-4, 7 points) have been much improved on the field in four games under new head coach Mark Parsons, but the team remains in search of its first victory since he took the helm on July 1. Since a 4-2 victory at Seattle on May 16, the Spirit are winless in nine matches with two goals scored, both on penalty kicks by Diana Matheson. The players and coaching staff welcomed a rare normal length work week leading up to this weekend after a grueling stretch of four games in 11 days.
“The last game, where we were in the game for a long period, that’s got to be a motivation for us,” Parsons said of Washington’s most recent 2-1 defeat at the Reign on July 14. “Also, they’ve done us at our place, let’s go and get them at their place, get points that we deserve. We’ve deserved some points out of the last few games. Let’s go get them.”
The Red Stars (5-6-4, 12 points) are still looking to make a run at the fourth and final NWSL playoff spot with a month remaining in the regular season. Last weekend they came from behind to score both in the dying moments of regulation and second-half stoppage time to secure a 3-3 tie with FC Kansas City at Benedictine University. They need to make the most of their home advantage, as they’ll play four of their final six games on the road after hosting the Spirit.
In the first-ever NWSL meeting between Washington and Chicago on July 10, the Red Stars used a pair of second-half goals to topple the Spirit, 2-0, after Washington goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris stymied an early penalty kick attempt at Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex. Harris dove to her left to deny Inka Grings in the eighth minute after Candace Chapman was whistled for a handball in the box. But Adriana Leon put the Red Stars on top in the 63rd minute and Ella Masar doubled the visitors’ lead eight minutes later.
Matheson continues to been a crucial contributor for Washington. Converting her fourth penalty of the year against Seattle last weekend, the Canadian national team midfielder improved her team-high scoring total to six goals, tying her with Sky Blue FC’s Sophie Schmidt for fourth in the NWSL. Matheson’s two assists are also tied with Spirit captain Lori Lindsey for the team lead.
Lindsey has had an impressive season of her own with Washington, the only player on the squad to start all 15 matches. The 33-year-old midfielder will look to continue her streak against the Red Stars.
Lori Chalupny leads Chicago with five goals, her most recent coming in the sixth minute of added time in the second half to salvage Chicago’s 3-3 tie with Kansas City. She also has three assists. Masar is second on the team with three goals and two assists.
Harris has been solid in net for Washington, racking up 58 saves in 13 starts good for third in NWSL. Eric McLeod has 44 saves in 10 starts for Chicago.
Washington will continue to lean on newcomers Conny Pohlers and Toni Pressley, who have each started every game they’ve been available for since joining the team. Pohlers has started the Spirit’s last six matches up top since joining the team on loan from German club VfL Wolfsburg. Pressley, a physical defender, has played every minute of the team’s last seven matches since joining the Spirit from Russian club Ryazan VDV.
The Spirit and Red Stars will meet for the third and final team during the regular season at Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex on August 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET.