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Spirit strike late again, draw with Red Stars in first away match of 2020

VIDEOS: Washington Spirit stars Aubrey Bledsoe and Crystal Thomas share these thoughts after the team’s 1-1 draw vs the Chicago Red Stars

The Washington Spirit finished their third game of the Fall Series in a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Red Stars at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Ill. A late moment of brilliance from forward Crystal Thomas saw the Spirit battle back during their first away match of the 2020 calendar year.

Recently, games between the Spirit and the Red Stars have been thrillers. With red card drama and late goal heroics punctuating recent fixtures, the two teams seem to bring out the best in each other.

In the opening moments of the match, Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez was fouled just outside the 18, setting up a free-kick from a dangerous area. Sanchez blasted her shot into the wall and couldn’t play a pass back into the box when the ball fell to her off the rebound.

The first half saw Meggie Dougherty Howard exit in the 38th minute due to issues relating to migraines. Dougherty Howard was replaced by Jenna Hellstrom.

When the Spirit did look threatened in the first half, centerback Paige Nielsen was at the heart of it. Nielsen again showed her defensive acumen by regaining possession a team-high 11 times and moving the ball efficiently, completing 82% of her passes.

At the start of the second half, substitute Crystal Thomas displayed her usual ball-hawking abilities when she picked off an errant pass and drove towards, earning the Spirit a corner following a rising shot deflected by Alyssa Naeher.

With the pace of play picking up in the second half, it was Watt who almost broke the deadlock. In the 58’, she received a perfectly weighted pass from Luebbert and took a touch past a charging Aubrey Bledsoe. The touch, however, took Watt too far wide and she had to cut back, by which time the Spirit had gotten numbers behind the ball. With the Spirit defense back in tact, Watt fired a shot over the net.

Inside of the final 20 minutes, Chicago took the lead. Luebbert drove down the left wing and played a pass straight across the face of goal, finding McCaskill who finished the move from point-blank range.

In the 88’, Red Stars right back Camryn Biegalski played a poor pass in between the Chicago center-backs. Thomas, the quickest to react, stole the ball, beat Naeher on the dribble and neatly tucked the ball into the right-hand corner, past a diving Tierna Davidson. Thomas has now either scored or assisted in the 88’ or later in each of the last two games.

The Washington Spirit will play their final match of the Fall Series against Sky Blue FC at MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field on Saturday, October 3 at 12:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on Twitch.

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