Spirit win 2021 NWSL Championship

Sophia Hosford

Before a record-setting 10,360 fans, the Washington Spirit claimed its first ever NWSL championship title with a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars. 

After a tumultuous season off the pitch following the firing of head coach Richie Burke, the Spirit managed to finish 3rd in the league, and had not lost a single match since September 12. 

En route to the championship in Louisville, Kentucky, the Spirit took down the North Carolina Courage and second place seed OL Reign. The Red Stars faced off against Gotham FC and took down favorites Portland Thorns FC. 

As the match commenced, neither team took the reins offensively, primarily holding the ball and waiting for a chance to pounce on the opposition. With twelve fouls apiece, and multiple stoppages due to injury, aggressive tackles were used as means of control due to the lack of shots on goal. 

In stoppage time of the first half, Red Stars defender Rachel Hill got on the board, putting her team up 1-0 going into the second 45. 

In the 67th minute, Spirit midfielder Tara McKeown was taken down in the box, giving the spirit a prime chance on goal. Midfielder Andi Sullivan buried the penalty kick, tying the match at 1-1. 

With 31 shots from the Spirit and just 14 shots from the Red Stars, another Spirit goal seemed to be on the horizon. Defender Kelley O’Hara was the one to put it away in the 97th minute, bumping her team up 2-1. Despite not putting one in the back of the net, 19-year-old forward Trinity Rodman was also largely responsible for the Spirit’s offensive prowess, putting up multiple threatening shots on goal. 

Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe was keen on ensuring the Spirit would return to the district with a trophy, making countless show stopping saves in the waning minutes of the match. A shot from Chicago defender Arin Wright in the 120th minute looked to be a potential equalizer but floated just above the bar, preserving the Spirit’s lead. 

After 120 minutes of exciting play, the Spirit came away with their first ever NWSL title. •