Spirit open homestand against Red Stars

Washington Spirit  |   August 6, 2013
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The Washington Spirit (1-14-4, 7 points) will look to put a dent in the playoff hopes of the Chicago Red Stars (7-7-5, 26 points) on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET in the start of a three-match homestand that will close out the inaugural NWSL season. The game will be streamed live on the NWSL YouTube channel.

The Red Stars arrive at Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex in fifth place in the NWSL standings, five points shy of the Western New York Flash (8-4-7, 31 points) with three games remaining. The top four teams make the playoffs.

The Spirit are still searching for their first victory under coach Mark Parsons but aren’t letting a 13-match winless streak dampen their plans to make the most of three matches in 11 days in one of the best atmospheres in the league.

“This truly is a really great opportunity,” Parsons said. “When they were full strength and we were missing bodies at their place, we lost by a single goal and we had chances to score. We could’ve gotten more out of that game.”

In their first visit to Benedictine University Sports Complex on July 20, the Spirit fell to the Red Stars, 1-0, on an unfortunate own goal. Moving from her usual position in the Washington attack to make an emergency start in the injury-ravaged back line, Tiffany McCarty turned a header by Chicago forward Inka Grings into the Spirit net in the 62nd minute. The goal spoiled an otherwise superb outing by Ashlyn Harris, who made seven saves in the contest.

In the teams’ first meeting July 10 at Maryland SoccerPlex, Harris also came up huge, but it wasn’t enough in a 2-0 win for visiting Chicago. In the eighth minute, Harris dove to her left to deny a penalty kick by Grings after Candace Chapman was called for a handball in the box. Adriana Leon and Ella Masar scored second-half goals for the Red Stars.

“We’re home, and our fans are behind us,” Parsons said. “Yes, we’ve got some injuries, but so have they. It’s a really good chance to catch a good team out. I feel confident about what we’ve got in store.”

Washington continues to improvise in defense, and it nearly paid dividends in last weekend’s 1-0 loss at Sky Blue FC. Backup goalkeeper Chantel Jones made her third start in the net after Harris was ruled out during warmups, and recent signing Marisa Abegg made her first start on the back line after joining the Spirit just before the roster deadline on July 31. Canadian national team member Robyn Gayle also returned to the lineup for the first time since June. Abegg and Gayle helped to make up for the injury absences of Chapman, Toni Pressley and Ali Krieger.

The Spirit have been much improved on the field under Parsons, but the team remains in search of its first victory since he took the helm on July 1. Diana Matheson leads Washington with seven goals, and she’s tied with Stephanie Ochs and Lori Lindsey for the team lead with two assists. Lindsey has had an impressive season of her own with Washington, the only player on the squad to start all 19 matches. The 33-year-old midfielder will look to continue her streak against the Red Stars.

The Red Stars are coming off a 3-1 defeat of Seattle Reign FC to keep their playoff hopes alive and eliminate the Reign from postseason contention. Sonja Fuss converted a penalty kick and Grings scored twice to secure the win. Chicago played without leading scorer Lori Chalupny (5 goals, 4 assists), who missed the game with a right ankle injury. Alyssa Mautz is second on the team with four goals while Grings and Masar have three goals each.

Following Wednesday’s match against Chicago, the Spirit will return to national television, hosting Seattle Reign FC on Saturday, Aug. 10, in a match that will be broadcast on FOX Soccer (7 p.m. ET). Washington concludes the regular season against Sky Blue FC on Sunday, August 18 (5 p.m. ET).

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