It’s NWSL championship game time! The match between the No. 3 Washington Spirit and No. 4 Chicago Red Stars kicks off at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, aired on CBS. To get you prepped, here’s star soccer writer André Carlisle on what to watch:
1. Spirit forward Trinity Rodman
The runaway Rookie of the Year should have also been a strong MVP candidate. During the regular season, her combined direct goal contributions of six goals and six assists was matched by only one other player.
2. New Champion Who Dis?
The Chicago Red Stars and the Washington Spirit are two of the eight original NWSL clubs and neither have won an NWSL Championship. In fact, since the league’s inaugural season in 2013 only four teams have hoisted the final trophy. No matter the outcome, you’re guaranteed to witness history.
No hear me out, these defenses are extremely fun. Red Stars center back Sarah Gorden can catch up to and disarm a missile, while Spirit defensive midfielder Andi Sullivan is the future at the position on the U.S. Women’s National Team. In their last five matches, Washington has allowed two goals, Chicago just one!
In 2017, Mallory Pugh turned pro straight out of high school, joined the Washington Spirit, and immediately led them in scoring. However, in 2019 the Spirit traded Pugh, and then she was traded again in 2021, this time to the Red Stars. After an MVP-caliber season with Chicago, she’ll face her first-ever professional club in the NWSL Championship game.
5. Destiny's Child
The Spirit endured a lot this season – a head coach fired over verbal abuse, team owner Steve Baldwin publicly feuding with co-owner Y. Michele Kang, and two forfeits due to COVID-19 – and feel their talent doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
The Red Stars’ issues have been more on-field. As recently as one month ago they were out of the playoff picture altogether, but won all three of their final matches (each by 1 goal) to secure a postseason berth. In their semifinal, Chicago beat the Portland Thorns, first-place finishers who blew them out 5-0 in their season opener. Nearly everyone outside of Red Stars players, staff and immediate families expected a loss, but Chicago earned a 2-0 victory.
Both teams feel as if they are a team of destiny, but destiny must decide.