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With the sting of Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Seattle barely subsided, the Washington Spirit regrouped and rebounded dramatically to hand the Chicago Red Stars their first loss of the season. Defender Tori Huster provided the fireworks for the night, knocking home the game-winner for the Red and White to earn Washington the 1-0 victory.
A different Washington lineup stepped on the field to face the Red Stars, with Jordan Angeli and Bianca Sierra getting their first start for the Spirit this season. Previous mainstays Crystal Dunn, Robyn Gayle and Jodie Taylor all started as reserves for the first time.
Alternately, Red Stars had no changes to the lineup from their first game, a 1-0 win over the Western New York Flash.
The first ten minutes featured little more than back-and-forth flow between the two teams, with no quality chances for either side. The conditions proved a large factor, as heavy gusts kept even set-piece balls rolling around the turf pitch throughout the night. The first corner kick of the match didn’t come until the 20th -minute mark, as each squad struggled to pressure offensively.
The best chance of the half came in the 45th minute when Chicago midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo played a perfectly weighted ball across the box to forward Adrianna Leon. Leon curled in a left-footed shot that hit the post, but rebounded out for a goal kick to the relief of the Spirit faithful.
Once again, substitutions by Spirit Coach Mark Parsons proved to be immediately influential. At the start of the second half, Dunn and midfielder Veronica Perez came on for Angeli and stalwart Lori Lindsey.
Sparked by physical play from Spirit forward Ranae Ceullar, teammate Danesha Adams seized the opportunity, cutting the ball onto her left foot and playing a perfectly-placed ball to the back post in the 51st minute. Sneaking forward unnoticed into the six yard box, the unmarked Huster pounded a header untouched past Chicago goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc for the 1-0 lead and her first goal of the season.
To finish the game, Dunn slotted into left back as Sierra came out and Taylor came in up top. The Spirit held their 1-0 lead through a frenetic final fifteen minutes. As both sides fought the wind and their emotions, four yellow cards were handed out in the chippy last 20 minutes of the match.
“It’s very pleasing to pick up three points on the road against a very tough team,” said Head Coach Mark Parsons. “It’s been a long stretch for us and to put in a performance like that shows the character of this team. Grabbing a clean sheet is very important to us and although we defended as a team, the back four and Ashlyn (Harris) really deserve that after all of their hard work these opening games. Preparation for Seattle starts now.”
With the win, the Spirit draws even in the standings at 2-2-0, while the Red Stars fall to 1-1-0. Washington returns home this Saturday, May 3rd, for a rematch with the Seattle Reign while the Red Stars travel to Kansas City for their third game of the season on Wednesday April 30th.
Washington Spirit Starting XI: (GK) Harris, Pressley, Averbuch, Lindsey (Perez 45), Matheson, Cuellar, Krieger, Sierra (Taylor 80) , Huster, Angeli (Dunn 45), Adams
Subs not used: Jones, Gayle, Nairn, Sandvej
Chicago Red Stars Starting XI: (GK) LeBlanc, Hoy (Brock 79), Mautz (Bywaters 56), Johnston, DiBernardo, Quon, Wenino, Chalupny, Santacaterina, Sitch (Morway 80), Leon
Subs not used: Vancil, Johnson