Spirit defeat Red Stars 2-1 extra time
Washington advances to the 2016 NWSL Championship at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston
Photo credit: Tony Quinn/isiphotos.com
Photo credit: Tony Quinn/isiphotos.com

(Sept. 30, 2016) – The Washington Spirit celebrated on their home field as they booked their place in the NWSL Championship Game with a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars in the semifinals of the 2016 NWSL Playoffs.

The Spirit dominated the first half before finally breaking through as Ali Krieger scored when she headed in a cross from fellow defender Shelina Zadorksy in the 36th minute to hand the hosts the lead.

Chicago grew in the match and the Red Stars got back on level terms in the 81st minute as Christen Press got on the end of a cross from Casey Short to get the visitors back into the match.

The Red Stars did not win a match in which they trailed during the regular season – posting an 0-5-2 record in those contests – but they were able to force extra time for the second time in the history of the NWSL Playoffs.

But Spirit forward Francisca Ordega came up with the game winning goal in the second half of extra time to lift Washington to their first playoff victory in club history.

See below for a breakdown of all the action.

Spirit 2, Red Stars 1 (AET)

Goals: WAS – Ali Krieger, 36’; Francisca Ordega 111’. CHI – Christen Press, 81’

The Breakdown: The Washington Spirit piled on the pressure for the first 45 minutes and finally made that sustained strength pay as Ali Krieger got her head to a cross from fellow defender Shelina Zadorsky on a second ball into the box following a corner kick.

The Spirit had several chances after Krieger’s goal to extend their lead – most notably with midfielder Christine Nairn unable to make good contact with a cross from Crystal Dunn in the 48th minute.

After a tough first half, the Red Stars began to impose themselves on the match as Chicago forward Cara Walls forced a fine defensive effort from Zadorsky in the 54th minute to keep coach Rory Dames’ side off the score sheet.

The Red Stars and Washington traded chances in the 75th and 76th minutes respectively as Chicago forward Christen Press and Spirit substitute Diana Matheson both blazed over the bar.

But it was Press and Chicago that eventually found the equalizer as the U.S. international got on the end of a cross from Red Stars defender Casey Short and volley home from seven yards out. Press nearly won the game in second-half stoppage time when she was played in on goal by midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo and side stepped Washington goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, but saw her shot crash off the cross bar in the 92nd minute.

The match would become the second game in the history of the NWSL Playoffs to go to extra time before Spirit and Nigeria international forward Francisca Ordega eventually settled the match with her goal in extra time.

Moment of the match: Spirit forward Francisca Ordega scored the game-winning goal in the 111th minute as she finished off a fantastic movement for Washington that saw forward Katie Stengel play the ball to Christine Nairn, who then exchanged a one-two with fellow midfielder Diana Matheson before Nairn delivered a low cross across the goal mouth for Ordega to turn into the net.

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