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  • Erica Blackburn

Spirit Lose to Red Stars, 3-1

The soccer gods weren’t operating in the Washington Spirit’s favor as the Chicago Red Stars took them down Sunday evening in Bridgeview, Illinois, 3-1.

The Spirit came into SeatGeek Stadium against their staunch challenger on a five match unbeaten streak. Over that span, the Spirit had netted eight goals and tied for third-best scoring margin in the league. The Spirit also found themselves one spot ahead of the Red Stars in the standings, who came into the contest third and fourth, respectively. Chicago has had the upper hand this season, battling the Spirit to a 1-1 draw in June and winning 1-0 in July.

In the 20th minute, Mallory Pugh got some space on the backline and did what she does best: created a shot for herself. Pugh’s right foot sent a shot to the center of the goal and Washington found themselves in a hole early on.

The Spirit came out flat; they were giving up too much in the midfield and backend, and it seemed like a perfect storm for another goal to be scored. And it was. A corner kick from a set piece worked to perfection in the 38th minute, extending the Red Stars lead, 2-0.

“We were our own worst enemy in the first half,” said head coach Richie Burke in the postgame press conference.

Coming out of the half, the Spirit made some substitution, plugging in Taylor Aylmer for Kumi Yokoyama in an attempt to change the momentum. They made subs again in the 63rd minute, with Camryn Biegalski coming on for Chinyelu Asher.

Trinity Rodman was frustrated during stretches of the game, but showed great individual effort in the 71st minute. She raced down the field, beat the goalie to the ball but lost her footing, gathered herself and sent a shot into the goal.

A questionable hand ball call by Sam Staab resulted in Morgan Gautrat converting the penalty shot, making the lead 3-1 with ten minutes to go. The Spirit put on the pressure in the second half, but could never overcome the two goal deficit.

“It wasn’t anything they were doing to limit us,” said Burke. “They played the way we anticipated. We just didn’t play, we didn’t get going. The game was lost in the first half.”

With this loss, the Spirit have dropped from third to fourth in the standings.

Once they return to the nation’s capital, Washington will play three of their next four matches at home, with one match at Segra Field and two at Audi Field. The Spirit will take on the #1 ranked Portland Thorns on Sunday, August 7th in Leesburg, VA.

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