The Chicago Red Stars closed out the 2016 NWSL regular season with an emphatic 3-1 over league leaders Washington Spirit, ensuring a 3rd place finish in the league table and building some needed confidence heading into the playoffs.
Washington came to Toyota Park looking for a win to solidify their place at the top of the league and secure their claim on the NWSL Shield for 2016. But the Red Stars spoiled the party and ended their campaign on a high note.
The Spirit started out strong in the opening minutes, dominating possession and keeping the hosts on the back foot. But they couldn’t capitalize on that early pressure, and Chicago ended up drawing first blood in the 6th minute when Christen Press shook off her defenders and hit an inch-perfect curling shot into the top corner.
Less than 20 minutes later, Cara Walls doubled the advantage with a calm and composed low shot out of the keeper’s reach. While Washington had some promising moments, Chicago finished the first half in complete control.
Moments after the second half kicked off, Sofia Huerta made it 3-0 with an incredible shross that landed in the back of the net.
But mere seconds later Washington got their advantage. Crystal Dunn, who had been agitating for a goal most of the night, finally struck home after finishing off a quick counterattack.
Washington sensed blood in the water and threw everything they had at their hosts. Chicago managed to hold on— barely. While the Red Stars attack seemed to run out of gas by the 70th minute, the defensive line held firm, and backup goalkeeper Michele Dalton came up big to keep Washington out of her net. It was tense, it was nervy, but our heroes came out on top.The Red Stars finish the 2016 regular season with 9 wins, 5 draws, and 6 losses. Their playoff opponents will be determined by the result from Sky Blue vs Portland tomorrow evening. If the Thorns win or draw, we’ll travel to the eastern seaboard and face Washington again on Friday. If Portland lose, we’ll fly west to meet them next Sunday.
And of course, if we win that game, we go to the Final on October 9th in Houston.
This has been a tremendous season so far that ended with our second playoff qualification in the NWSL era. While the Red Stars aren’t exactly favorites to win the title, it’s not a good idea to count them out.