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Monday, December 6, 2021

O’Hara gives Washington Spirit their first NWSL title

Louisville, Q. – Kelly O’Hara scored in the 97th minute as the Washington Spirit won the National Women’s Soccer League Championship in a 2-1 extra-time victory over the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday.

The championship game kicks off the ninth season for the league. Spirit lost a couple games this season due to coronavirus issues. The team played under interim coach Chris Ward after Richie Burke was fired in September for violating the league’s anti-harassment policy.

It was the first league championship for the Spirit, reaching the semi-finals with a 2–1 win over second seed OL Reign.

O’Hara, a defender who was on the US national team that won the World Cup in 2015 and 2019, scored his first goal of the season. His game-winning back-post header came with a pass from Trinity Rodman, NWSL Rookie of the Year.

Mallory Pugh, who missed the semi-finals due to COVID-19 protocols, started for the Red Stars but left the game in the first-half stoppage time with an apparent injury. Soon after she left, Rachel Hill scored a cross from Erin Wright to give the Red Stars a 1-0 lead. Chicago defeated top-seeded Portland Thorns 2–0 in the semifinals.

Earlier in the game, Vanessa DiBernardo of Chicago was injured.

Despite their struggles, the Spirit boasts a roster with Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch and Goalkeeper of the Year Aubrey Bledsoe, as well as Rodman, the daughter of former NBA player Dennis Rodman.

Rodman nearly leveled the game in the 61st minute with a blast from a distance that hit the post. But the Spirit pulled off a little later when captain Andy Sullivan scored a penalty kick to beat Chicago goalkeeper Cassie Miller.

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Chicago had a chance in the second extra period on Mackenzie Doniac’s shot, but Bledsoe deftly blocked it.

Games were canceled and players protested during the season after North Carolina coach Paul Riley was accused by two former players of sexual assault and coercion, denying the allegations.

Burke’s dismissal sports a game shortly before Riley was fired in the wake of serious charges leveled against him by former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim. Following those reports, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned and the NWSL and US Soccer launched an independent external investigation.

The league canceled the weekend games. When play resumed, the match was paused momentarily for the players to gather in a circle at midfield, in a quiet show of unity.

At Saturday’s championship match, fans had signs reading “Sell the Team, Steve” in reference to Spirit owner Steve Baldwin.

OL Reign coach Fareed Benstiti was also sacked after an incident in the summer where he was accused of inappropriate behavior.

In the next season, the 10-team league will expand to 12 teams with Angel City FC and San Diego Wave in Los Angeles.

The announced attendance for the championship game at Lynn Family Stadium was 10,360. This was the second time the title game had gone into extra time.

Airing on CBS, the game came a day after Nike announced it was extending its sponsorship deal with the league.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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