It was the Red Stars’ third game against the Washington Spirit in six weeks. So with few secrets as far as game plans go, coach Rory Dames said a victory would come down to his team executing the small details.
Morgan Gautrat converted a penalty kick in the 80th minute to help the Red Stars secure three points and move into third place with a 3-1 victory Sunday at SeatGeek Stadium.
In the 19th minute, Mal Pugh perfectly executed a right-footed shot from outside the box that found the back of the net. In the 39th minute, Rachel Hill scored on a header after a corner kick.
“In the first half, we came out on the front foot,” Pugh said.
“Our formation tactically led to [high] energy and wanting to keep the ball, possess, good transition and all things attacking-minded.”
The Spirit are a young, dangerous team in transition. Ashley Hatch leads the NWSL in goals with six, and rookie Trinity Rodman is among the league’s top 10 scorers with four.
The Red Stars’ back line kept the Spirit on the back foot in the first half.
In the 71st minute, the Spirit answered after a breakdown on the back line brought goalkeeper Cassie Miller out. Rodman had a wide-open shot, and she didn’t miss.
For teams such as the Red Stars who have four Olympians playing in Tokyo, there’s a slightly different perspective during the Olympics.
Their focus remains on staying in the hunt. Dames stressed that the players he has have done a great job in keeping the Red Stars near the top of the standings with their Olympians away.
“Credit to this group because they’ve done a lot more than stick around,” Dames said. “They moved us.”
Next Sunday, the Red Stars play the Orlando Pride at SeatGeek Stadium. Pride coach Mark Skinner resigned July 23, and Becky Burleigh is the interim coach.
The Pride are looking for their first victory in six games.