Women's Football

Washington Spirit crowned NWSL champions

Lizzy Becherano
Washington Spirit defeat Chicago Red Stars to become 2021 NWSL Champions
Washington Spirit defeat Chicago Red Stars to become 2021 NWSL Champions / Joe Robbins/ISI Photos/GettyImages
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The Washington Spirit brought home its first national championship title after defeating the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League Final on Saturday.

Chicago kicked off the match stronger, taking the lead in the first half with a goal by American striker Rachel Hill. Despite the early blunder, the Spirit returned to the pitch after halftime with a rejuvenated energy to find the equalizer quickly through a penalty kick by captain Andi Sullivan.

The Washington D.C. team then doubled the score and sealed the win after Kelly O’Hara headed Trinity Rodman's cross home. The 97-minute goal was O’Hara’s first of the season, and at 33-years-old she became the oldest NWSL player to score in a playoff game. 

The Spirit’s win comes after a difficult couple of weeks for the team. In September, the former head coach Richie Burke was fired by the league after an investigation into allegations of harassment and toxic work culture. 

His departure ensued internal struggles that saw supporters groups urge ownership to sell the club and mandate new protocols be put in place to protect the players. 

Burke’s departure marked one of many in 2021.

North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley was also fired after allegations of sexual coercion from former players came to light. Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue saw an untimely departure from the club after an investigation into the league's anti-harassment policy.

Racing Louisville fired coach Christy Holly during the season "for cause," without further elaboration, while OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti resigned after being asked to step down from the job.

The league lost stability when commissioner Lisa Baird resigned after The Athletic published the misconduct allegations against Riley. Consequently, games the following weekend were canceled. 

The season as a whole is considered as a landmark year for the NWSL that saw athletes speak up and demand a better work environment. But despite the turbulence, the Washington Spirit found a way to rise above and leave all their energy on the pitch to lift the trophy.

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