Washington Spirit stun Chicago Red Stars to claim 2-1 victory on opening day of NWSL Challenge Cup
Washington Spirit stunned last year’s National Women’s Soccer League runners-up Chicago Red Stars by winning 2-1 on the opening day of the Challenge Cup campaign.
US international Rose Lavelle broke the deadlock after eight minutes when she followed up Ashley Hatch’s effort to rifle home from close range.
Three minutes before half-time Lavelle had the chance to increase Washington’s lead when she was slid through one-on-one with Alyssa Naeher, but the keeper was equal to it and parried the ball away.
But just seconds after the break Naeher made a catastrophic error when her clearance was closed down by Hatch and the 25-year-old forward was gifted an open goal to double her side’s advantage.
Chicago got themselves back in the game five minutes later as Vanessa DiBernardo found Morgan Brian in space and she made no mistake with a thumping drive which proved too hot for Aubrey Bledsoe to handle.
And Bianca St. Georges had the chance to snatch a point for Chicago one minute from the end of normal time, but her close range shot was pushed away by Bledsoe.
The result raises question marks around Chicago’s lack of fire power up front as they begin their first campaign without prolific Australian forward Sam Kerr.
The NWSL Challenge Cup is being competed for by eight teams after Orlando Pride withdrew prior to the start following several positive coronavirus results.
Next up for Chicago is a game against Portland Thorns on Wednesday, a side who were beaten in the opening game of the tournament by current league champions North Carolina Courage.
Meanwhile, Washington will take on North Carolina on Thursday as they look to claim victories over both of last year’s top two within days of each other.