NWSL scores, highlights: Chicago Red Stars, Washington Spirit will meet for 2021 title after semifinal wins
The Red Stars and Spirit ousted the Portland Thorns and OL Reign, respectively, on Sunday
The 2021 NWSL final is set: the Chicago Red Stars will face the Washington Spirit for the title next weekend after the two teams pulled off road wins in Sunday's semifinals. The Spirit were come-from-behind winners over OL Reign in Tacoma, while the Red Stars went to Portland and shutout the Thorns. The Red Stars and Spirit will meet on Saturday in Louisville for the 2021 crown, with both teams looking for their first NWSL championship.
The Spirit punched their ticket to Saturday's final in Louisville with a 2-1 comeback win on the road. OL Reign took a 1-0 lead in the third minute as Megan Rapinoe found Eugenie Le Sommer for an early goal. But Washington fought back as rookie Trinity Rodman tied the game in the first half before Ashley Sanchez scored the game-winner in the 68th minute.
The Red Stars were 2-0 winners against the Thorns, ousting top-seeded Portland in the process. Chicago got goals on each side of halftime, with Katie Johnson opening the scoring and Sarah Woldmoe adding an insurance goal in the 59th minute.
NWSL semifinal scores
- FINAL: OL Reign 1, Washington Spirit 2
- FINAL: Portland Thorns 0, Chicago Red Stars 2
Red Stars stifle Thorns
The Red Stars ended Portland's stellar season in Providence Park as both teams had multiple key players out. Thorns midfielder Crystal Dunn recently announced her pregnancy, and Lindsey Horan was out as a precaution with an eye injury. Chicago was missing MVP candidate Mallory Pugh and defender Kayla Sharples, who were out under COVID protocol. Despite missing some key pieces, the Thorns were considered heavy favorites as the top ranked team with three trophies under their belt this year.
Portland made an effort to establish tempo early, retaining the ball and spending time in Chicago's half, but was unable to break down the Red Stars shape early. Adding to the Red Stars' personnel troubles, forward Kealia Watt exited the match with a knee injury in the 29th minute.
Katie Johnson was subbed in Watt's place and scored the opening goal just minutes later with a shot that found a spot in the top right corner.
The Thorns made an attacking adjustment into the second half, bringing Simone Charley on for Morgan Weaver, but the attempt never panned out. Chicago extended the lead with a goal by Sarah Woldmoe outside the box shortly before the hour mark.
The effort to push for goals continued for the Thorns, including a tactical shift to allow more players into space in Chicago's half, and despite out shooting the Red Stars 21-5, the goals never came for the NWSL Shield winners.
"Resiliency is actually one of our words for the year," Red Stars head coach Rory Dames said after the game. "One of the main words that we built the culture here off of if you go back to the early years here with the teams we had. So, the group bends but they don't break. When they're on the field and they cross the line, there is a high level of belief for one another. They know their roles, they play within themselves. And you know this this isn't an easy place to play. So great performance by the group tonight."
Spirit end Reign's season
The two teams got off to a quick start, both scoring in the opening 15 minutes. OL Reign set a NWSL playoff record for quickest goal. Megan Rapinoe provided an assist to Eugenie Le Sommer for the opener. Take a look:
The Spirit weren't down for long, though, as Trinity Rodman set a record of her own for youngest player to score in the NWSL playoffs, scoring the equalizer in the 12th minute.
Despite the Reign's quick start, the team struggled with the Spirit's back pressing, and ultimately seemed to get frustrated out of their game plan as the match wore on, and the finishing was lacking.
There were no initial substitutions to start the second half for either side, though as the game ticked past the hour mark, an attacking substitution from Reign head coach Laura Harvey to bring on Bethany Balcer for more offensive looks didn't pan out.
Immediately after the substitution, the Spirit earned a corner kick. The set piece was played short, as the ball fell to Ashley Sanchez in open space. After a quick adjustment on the ball, the second-year forward chipped the ball near the endline and the shot drifted into the net for the game-winning goal.
The win for Washington Spirit means the team returns into the NWSL Championship final for the first time since 2016.
CBS Sports was providing live updates throughout the day. Relive the action below.