The “chicago red stars roster” is a great title game after the controversial season that the Washington Spirit had. The final score was 3-2 in favor of Chicago Red Stars.
The 2018 NWSL Championship Game was a great final after an up and down season. The Washington Spirit, the league’s only back-to-back champions, defeated Chicago Red Stars to win their second straight trophy in four years.
The NWSL will crown a champion Saturday between the Washington Spirit and the Chicago Red Stars, after a spectacular set of playoff games last week that produced two underdog finals. It will cap off the most challenging season in the small league’s history.
The National Women’s Soccer League was in the midst of a so-called reckoning a little over a month ago, during which the league simply ceased to exist. The players canceled a weekend of games due to the outrage and emotional toll of coach abuse — and the organizational flaws that enabled such conduct to go unchecked. But, in the end, the soccer had to begin; the games had to continue in order to get the NWSL back on track.
After a season in which the NWSL received far too much attention for its spectacular on-field product and far too little attention for problems that supporters had long tried to ignore in order to save the league, Saturday’s championship is a chance to remind everyone why the NWSL is worth saving by confronting and fixing its problems.
Consider the Spirit’s season-long tale. The club has been a chaotic disaster at the highest levels off the field. Coach Richie Burke was accused of making abusive and racist comments to players, and when club owner Steve Baldwin learned of the investigation, he claimed Burke had health difficulties and handed him a front-office position rather than dismissing him, prompting the NWSL to step in and ban him.
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Meanwhile, a nasty power battle erupted between Baldwin, the main owner, and minority owner Y. Michele Kang. The players got involved in the fight, demanding that Baldwin sell the squad to Kang, which has yet to happen. During another incident involving COVID-19 protocol infractions, so many Washington players tested positive — a few of them were supposedly unvaccinated — that the team was forced to lose two games.
It wasn’t exactly how a championship season should be planned, but the Spirit players persisted owing to their on-field flair and drive. Look no farther than breakthrough star (and NWSL Rookie of the Year) Trinity Rodman, who delivered on her pledge to establish a name for herself by incorporating more innovation into her game before the season began.
Ashley Hatch, who had been on the fringes of the USWNT for years, had a breakthrough season, capturing the Golden Boot with 10 goals in 20 starts. Andi Sullivan, another member of the USWNT, as well as goalie Aubrey Bledsoe, both improved this year. Despite the commotion going on around them, Spirit players stood up and made improvements all across the squad.
After the regular season, Rodman said: “Everything has been channeled through soccer. We’re more driven than anything else. We are desperate to win.”
The Red Stars, on the other hand, have had their own setbacks on their way to the final, although of a more predictable one. For example, in the semifinal in Portland, they had to face a big favorite, the Portland Thorns, despite playing without midfielder Julie Ertz (injured), goalie Alyssa Naeher (injured), forward Mallory Pugh (COVID-19), and forward Kealia Watt before the half-hour mark. Despite this, they were the superior squad on the day.
The Washington Spirit and the Chicago Red Stars will compete for the NWSL title on Saturday. Getty Images/DANIEL BARTEL/ISI Photos
Morgan Gautrat (née Brian) has recaptured the form that earned her a spot on the USWNT’s World Cup-winning team years ago, while Sarah Gorden, the Red Stars’ center-back, has turned in a Best XI performance this season, playing every minute and anchoring the defense.
The Red Stars seem to have the upper hand in this final match-up on paper. The Red Stars have won two of their three matches this season, with the third ending in a tie. The most recent was a 3-1 victory for the Red Stars in August. The Spirit’s recent play, combined with the Red Stars’ lingering questions about Pugh and Watt, creates an unexpected matchup. While the authors of the NWSL scripts may have chosen a different final, there is no obvious favorite here, which adds to the intrigue.
Indeed, the NWSL’s on-field product has never been an issue, and the NWSL championship on Saturday, despite the early beginning time, has the potential to be a top-tier showcase of soccer. The league’s players are among the greatest in the world, and their ability to compete at a high level under adverse conditions is nothing short of remarkable.
It begs the question: if the players can devote so much time and effort to dealing with off-field issues while still performing well, how much better would the NWSL be if it cleaned up all of its messes? It’s definitely no accident that the Spirit haven’t lost a game (forfeits apart) since Burke was fired, and they’ve been playing their best soccer of the season.
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Meanwhile, in Portland, the crux of the Paul Riley scandal, the players have suffered since it was revealed that Riley’s career was preserved by owner Merritt Paulson and general manager Gavin Wilkinson, who decided to handle the allegations against him discreetly. They finished 1-1-4 in the semifinals, a far cry from their 10-game undefeated stretch that helped them capture the NWSL Shield halfway through the season.
Indeed, there have been grounds to dispute the NWSL’s self-proclaimed reputation as the top women’s soccer league in the world, through no fault of the players. For example, in the greatest league, a coach suspected of predatory conduct would be fired. Even more vexing is the fact that the Thorns, largely regarded as the NWSL’s flagship team, were at the center of the dispute.
The finest league wouldn’t hire a commissioner after waiting many years, only to have that commissioner resign in disgrace after ignoring player pleas to re-investigate Riley’s actions after a year and a half. And the top league wouldn’t hold a championship game at 9 a.m. PT only to relocate it on short notice when players objected. (However, the 12:00 ET time slot in Louisville remains.)
But that has been the theme of the NWSL this season.
Even if the league resolves all of its issues — a lengthy and tough process that will last far beyond the 2021 season — it will need great players and competitive games if it is to be considered a contender for “best league” once again. Fortunately for the NWSL, the attention will be on the players during Saturday’s NWSL championship: on the players, who have always been the league’s biggest asset.
The “nwsl championship how to watch” is a great title game after a controversial season. The Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars will battle for the National Women’s Soccer League Championship on October 14th at 8:30 PM EST.
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