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Three Things: Washington Spirit vs. Chicago Red Stars

Christen Press, left, scored a late game-winner to break the Red Stars out of a post-FIFA break slump (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

BOYDS, MD. — Christen Press nabbed a late goal to lead the visiting Chicago Red Stars over the Washington Spirit 2-1 Saturday night. The win snaps the Red Stars’ three game losing streak and gives them their first win since the international break. With the loss, the Spirit were officially eliminated from the playoffs.

Can’t score if you can’t shoot

Okay, the title of this section is absurdly simple but as with just about everything in this Groundhog Day like season for the Washington Spirit, the lack of shots on target is frustratingly familiar.

Last night, the home side ended the game with advantages in possession and no less than three open play crosses that skidded across the box without finding a runner. The Spirit ended the game with just one shot on target after managing just three last week. Simply put, the Spirit lack the decisive play necessary to take advantage of their forays into the final third.

“I think in the first half we were probably unlucky not to get a goal. If we get anything on target or if we get a bounce and then we had a couple of good corner kicks, ball lands in the six,” head coach Jim Gabarra said. “I just think the difference is we’re just not confident and aggressive enough right now particularly in the final third and in the penalty area. You can’t score goals if you’re not willing to sacrifice your body and trap the ball.”

In truth, it’s hard to blame the Spirit for the timidity in terms of sacrificing the body for a scoring opportunity. Just as the team welcomes Franny Ordega back into the fray, Arielle Ship seems destined for the long term injury list after suffering an apparent knee injury last night. Ordega, assuming she can muster more than the cameo appearance she made last night, could alleviate some of the Spirit’s offensive woes both from a sheer production standpoint and her tendency not to shy away from physical play.

Christen Press gets a bit of revenge

Last year Christen Press missed an open net that would have sent the Red Stars into the NWSL Championship. Instead, Franny Ordega scored in extra time sending the Red Stars home. Last night, the captain found one late to earn her side full points in the match. Of course securing a regular season match doesn’t compare to helping a side earn a berth to the championship game, but the win was important for the side with the results of late. It will be interesting to see if those couple of extra points earned make a difference in the final table.

Postgame both head coaches alluded to the last game Chicago played at the Soccerplex. While coaches often espouse the need to keep the past in the past, sometimes it’s impossible to deny it.

“You can’t completely deny Press getting in behind you she gets in behind almost every team in the league on a consistent basis,” Gabarra said about the opportunity that cost his side a point. “So it’s almost like I think we’ve paid our bill now from last year where she missed an open goal and now she scores a winner.”

“We’ve been on the opposite end of that goal a few times in this stadium so it was nice to be on that side of it for once,” Chicago head coach Rory Dames said.

Kristie Mewis scores against former team

It’s one of those ready-made storylines that are a writer’s dream. Kristie Mewis scores in her first game as a Red Star against the very team that just traded her. Postgame, Mewis didn’t seem to buy into the narrative.

“It was coming to the point where I just wanted to play in games and I wanted to be able to help a team and I’m lucky enough to be able to be a part of the Chicago Red Stars for the remainder of the season so I just don’t really care about all of the details and stuff,” Mewis said about the trade. She later added: “I was just ready to commit to something and just do whatever I had to do to be successful so I’m kind of leaving all of that in the background and just focusing on soccer for right now.”

With the way Mewis spoke, she made it sounded as though she asked for a trade. On a follow-up question, Mewis set the record straight.

“No, I didn’t, but I think it was obviously what was best for the Washington Spirit and what is best for me so I think it ended up working out for the both of us.”

The elder Mewis–her younger sister Sam plays for the Courage–is a player that elicits a wide array of reactions. After spending three seasons with the Boston Breakers and most of this season with the struggling Spirit, it will be interesting to see how she fares with a solid squad around her.

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