The Spirit scored in the opening minutes and again in the closing minutes to knock off the Red Stars, 2-1 on Sunday night and take second place on the head-to-head tiebreaker with three games to play for each team.
Crystal Dunn’s league-leading 13th goal of the season in stoppage time was the game-winner. Megan Oyster connected on her first professional goal in the 3rd minute to give the Spirit a lead they carried nearly 80 minutes before Melissa Tancredi equalized. It was the first away win for the Spirit since April 26 against Sky Blue, and the loss extended the Red Stars’ winless run to five. Both teams are six points ahead of the Thorns who are leading the chase pack.
With both teams missing their United States World Cup players it left Dunn as the star of the show. She made her mark almost immediately breaking through the Red Stars defense and getting off a shot that Karina LeBlanc made a tremendous save on. Christine Nairn took the ensuing corner kick and found Oyster whose soft header bounced back toward the near post and eluded LeBlanc and Rachel Quon who was guarding the post but could not make a play on the ball.
Oyster grew up a stone’s throw from Benedictine University Sports Complex and thought she had scored her first professional goal in front of her friends and family on June 20. But that game—and her goal—was ultimately scrapped by thunderstorms. Sunday’s goal righted that injustice and will now officially stand as Oyster’s first pro goal.
The Spirit controlled much of the match after that against a Red Stars team that was turnover prone and not able to do much in terms of building their attack. Tancredi came off the bench midway through the second half and got on the end of an Alyssa Mautz cross to tie the score with less than 10 minutes to play. Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys appeared to commit to her left as Tancredi leaped and sent her header to the keeper’s right.
Dunn put her final mark on the match in the 92nd minute, first by making a long run to win a throw-in which she took herself. Receiving the ball right back Dunn got around two Red Stars to earn a position in the box and then fired a shot past passive defenders and into the far corner and out of the reach of LeBlanc who was cheating to her left.
The Spirit (8-5-4, 28 pts) moved to second place and next play at FC Kansas City on Thursday, August 27. The Red Stars (7-3-7, 28 pts) are back home next Sunday to start a home-and-home against the Flash.