The Red Stars and Washington Spirit played to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at SeatGeek Stadium, with late goals from Trinity Rodman and Morgan Gautrat giving a mostly uneventful game an exciting finish as the Red Stars commemorated Juneteenth.
A Game That, To Be Kind, Wasn’t Good
For the first 85 minutes, neither team was able to string together enough well-placed passes to generate meaningful attacks. The rare exceptions for Chicago were a Kealia Watt shot drilled into the stomach of Ashley Bledsoe from less than 10 feet away and a Mallory Pugh shot that hit the outside of the post from a similar distance.
“We didn’t really give anything away in the first half, but we struggled to get ahold of it,” Rory Dames said of his team’s performance to begin the game.
He added that he was particularly frustrated because he felt the team’s recent performances had been building momentum only for them to come out flat in this one.
Eventually, the Spirit found the breakthrough as a long-ball by Andi Sullivan landed perfectly in the path of Trinity Rodman for the 19-year-old to score her first regular season NWSL goal in the 85th minute seemingly out of nowhere.
“Conceding in the 85th minute is something we’ve done twice now against the run of play, so that’s something we’ll have to work on keeping our concentration at the back but it would certainly be easier if we could take some of our chances up front,” said Dames, referring to the Red Stars’ May 29th loss in Houston.
The Red Stars did capitalize when presented with a final chance: a Sam Staab handball in the box led to a Morgan Gautrat penalty in the second minute of stoppage time to split the points.
“I think a few of the girls just looked at me and I took the ball and just went with it,” said Gautrat, who had never scored an NWSL penalty kick before.
Juneteenth and More Important Things
Recently declared a federal holiday, Juneteenth was commemorated Saturday night by the Red Stars and presented an opportunity for Sarah Gorden both to look back on the last year while also looking forward to what can be built on the opportunity for education the holiday presents.
“I felt super grateful that we got to play a game today, on Juneteenth,” said Gorden. “In a weird way it’s motivating to think about what some of our ancestral line has been through and to be able to go out on the field and do what I love and losing myself in the game, it’s very special to me on a day like today.”
Head coach Rory Dames said he is not aware of any minutes restrictions for national team players over the next week. He said Alyssa Naeher is likely to start the next two games (Tuesday and Sautrday), while Tierna Davidson’s playing time will be dictated by her feelings on her fitness.
Naeher and Davidson are sure-things for Vlatko Andonovsky’s 18-player Olympic roster (expected to be released early this week) and Julie Ertz will go to Tokyo too if she’s healthy enough.
Earlier in the year, Dames said he expected to lose Casey Krueger and Mallory Pugh as well. Despite the fact that neither have recently featured for the USWNT, Dames still believes it is a possibility one or both of them could find themselves involved this summer.
“I don’t know if you have to go into a camp to get a look,” said Dames “Obviously, [Emily] Sonnett got hurt tonight and left the game so a lot of things can happen through the weekend. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who’s been more dangerous right now in the league than Mal… I’ve known Vlatko a long time, I have a ton of respect for Vlatko, I certainly don’t envy the position he’s in. When you have the best and deepest team in the world, 18’s a small number.”
Tuesday, June 22nd at OL Reign (9 PM CT, Twitch)
Saturday, June 26th vs Racing Louisville (1 PM CT, Paramount+)