GERMANTOWN, Md. -- The Chicago Red Stars struck early with a 4th minute goal from Lori Chalupny, but Washington pulled out their own tricks, scoring early in the second half with a 48th minute Christine Nairn goal and followed by a last-second winner from Yael Averbuch in the 94th minute of the game, during stoppage time for a 2-1 victory. With a win, the Red Stars would have been back in the top 4 coveted playoff spots, but the loss keeps them in 5th and just out of range with only 3 matches remaining in the NWSL regular season.
"The effort of the group was good but we missed some chances in the first 25 minutes to go up 2-0," said Head Coach Rory Dames. "At the end the game came down to a fantastic save by (Spirit GK Ashlyn) Harris and a great finish by Averbuch. We need to win our last 3 games. Anything less than that won't be good enough."
Washington started out the game with a great chance in the first minute when midfielder Diana Matheson broke free on the left side and played in an ideal low cross into the box. Lisa DeVanna was unable to connect as she slid toward the ball.
But Chicago struck first with good ball movement that started in the midfield by forward Christen Press, who made a run up the center of the field at Washington's back line. Press laid the ball off toward the right side to fellow-forward Melissa Tancredi who put a low cross straight toward the onrushing Red Stars captain Chalupny, who took a simple touch of the ball and placed it perfectly into the left side netting low past Spirit keeper Ashlyn Harris to give the Red Stars an early 4th minute lead.
In the 39th minute, LeBlanc came out of net to possibly receive a back-pass from a Red Stars teammate, but miscommunication left an open net as the Spirit played the ball across to Kerstin Garefrekes. She turned and blasted a shot, but defender Abby Erceg recovered in time to make the goal-saving block and retain Chicago's lead heading into halftime.
Washington came out blazing in the second half and got on the board early with a low blast from the top of the 18-yard-box by Christine Nairn in the 48th that somehow wove through the entire Chicago defense and past Red Stars keeper LeBlanc into the right corner of the net for the equalizer.
The rest of the second half was back and forth from both teams, but the best chance was by the Red Stars in the 89th minute, when substitute midfielder Adriana Leon worked the ball up field to Tancredi who took a touch toward the left end line and put in a high cross. Her pass went directly to the head of Press who got a shot off from point-blank range. But Harris made one of the saves of the year in blocking the header to keep the Red Stars from pulling out a late win.
Unfortunately for Chicago that wasn't going to be the last big play of the game, as Washington substitute Yael Averbuch received a ball from DeVanna near the top of the 18-yard-box with just second remaining in the match. She blasted a low shot that was similar to their earlier tally that wove through the Red Stars defense and past the outstretched LeBlanc to seal the game-winner for Washington.
The disappointing loss puts the Red Stars playoff hopes on the line as they now remain in 5th place behind both Washington and Portland with just 3 matches remaining.
The Red Stars will end the regular season with all home matches starting on Aug. 9 vs. FC Kansas City, followed by August 13 v Boston Breakers, and ending the way they started the season against WNY Flash on Aug. 16.