Kelley O’Hara has headed home in extra time as the Washington Spirit defeated the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 to win their first National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) championship in Louisville, Kentucky.
O’Hara latched on to a long pass from rookie Trinity Rodman to score her first goal of the season past Red Stars keeper Cassie Miller in front of the 10,360 fans at Lynn Family Stadium.
The scrappy Red Stars created opportunities down the stretch but were hampered by the absence of key players such as Kealia Watt, who was hurt in the semi-final, and Mallory Pugh, who left at the end of the first half with an injury.
Red Stars broke the deadlock just before the interval when Arin Wright floated a cross to Rachel Hill, whose header handed them a 1-0 lead.
The Spirit drew level in the 67th minute when captain Andi Sullivan fired in a penalty that rolled past the outstretched arm of Miller.
After O’Hara’s header handed the Spirit a 2-1 lead in the sixth minute of extra time, birthday girl Aubrey Bledsoe proved why she was named Goalkeeper of the Year when she made a diving save on a point blank shot by Chicago’s Makenzy Doniak to preserve Washington’s lead.
The championship match closes a painful season for the NWSL, during which sweeping changes were made in the league following allegations of sexual misconduct made against a former coach.
The report sent shockwaves through the NWSL, leading to the departure of former Commissioner Lisa Baird and appointment of Marla Messing as interim CEO, US Soccer and FIFA also announced they would investigate.