Spirit, Red Stars head to NWSL championship with Sinclair's Thorns ousted

The Washington Spirit advanced to the National Women's Soccer League championship game with a victory over OL Reign on Sunday, while the Chicago Red Stars move on after upsetting Christine Sinclair and the Portland Thorns.

Washington defeats OL Reign, Chicago takes down NWSL Shield-winning Portland

Washington Spirit's Ashley Sanchez (10) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the OL Reign in the second half in the semifinals of the NWSL soccer playoffs Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Tacoma, Wash. (Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

Ashley Sanchez scored the game winner in the 68th minute and the Washington Spirit advanced to the National Women's Soccer League championship game with a 2-1 victory over OL Reign on Sunday.

The Spirit, undefeated in their last eight straight matches, will face the Chicago Red Stars next Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky — Katie Johnson and Sarah Woldmoe each scored to earn a 2-0 semifinal victory over Christine Sinclair's Portland Thorns.

It is the first time the Spirit have gone to the post season since 2016.

Eugenie Le Sommer gave the Reign the early lead with a goal in the third minute. The Spirit pulled even on Trinity's Rodman's goal in the 12th.

It was the seventh goal of the season for Rodman, a Rookie of the Year finalist and the daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman. At 19, she is the youngest player to score in the playoffs.

Sanchez gave the Spirit the lead with a goal from a seemingly impossible angle off a corner kick.

Canadians with a championship berth on the line included Washington goalkeeper Devon Kerr of Barrie, Ont., and Reign midfielder Quinn of Toronto. 

WATCH | Washington Spirit defeats OL Reign in semifinal:

Ashley Sanchez sends Washington Spirit to NWSL championship

2 months ago
Duration 0:21
Washington Spirit defeats OL Reign 2-1 and advances to the National Women's Soccer League championship game. 0:21

The result for the Spirit comes amid a turbulent season. The team's coach, Richie Burke, was dismissed in September for violating the league's anti-harassment policy. The Spirit also had to forfeit two regular-season games because of COVID-19 protocols.

The Spirit were 2-1-0 over the Reign in the regular season.

Chicago upsets Portland

Meanwhile, Canadian defender Bianca St Georges, of St-Charles-Borommée, Que., will move on to the finals with Chicago, while Portland captain Sinclair, of Burnaby, B.C., gets left behind. 

The Thorns won the NWSL Shield this season for best regular-season record. They have won the NWSL championship twice, in the league's inaugural season in 2013 and again in 2017.

WATCH | Red Stars blank Thorns en route to NWSL title game berth:

Red Stars advance to NWSL championship with win over Thorns

2 months ago
Duration 0:58
Katie Johnson and Sarah Woldmoe each scored as Chicago Red Stars defeated Christine Sinclair's Portland Thorns 2-0. 0:58

The Thorns were without midfielder Lindsey Horan because of an eye injury. She released a statement just before the game that said she took a knock in practice on Saturday and lost vision for a few hours.

The Thorns were also without midfielder Crystal Dunn, who announced this week that she is pregnant and due in the spring.

The Red Stars were without Mallory Pugh because of coronavirus protocol.

Chicago was hurt in the 23rd minute when attacker Kealia Watt injured her right knee and had to leave the game.

Watt's replacement, Katie Johnson, scored in the 37th minute to give the Red Stars the lead. Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby leaped but couldn't deflect the shot from distance to the near post.

The Red Stars doubled the lead in the 59th minute on Sarah Woldmoe's goal.

Chicago goalkeeper Cassie Miller made six saves.

Bixby collapsed to the field after the loss in tears, and was helped off by her teammates. The game was the last for Thorns coach Mark Parsons, who is leaving to coach the Netherlands women's national team full time.

Following the game, Bixby went to Twitter to reveal that she had lost her father earlier this week.

"I don't feel like I owe anyone an explanation, but I do feel like I'm ready to say it. My father died this week by suicide. And I've surprised myself by how strong I've been, but I couldn't hold it anymore. My playing for this city meant so much to him," she wrote. "I think regardless of the outcome tonight, I would've broke down— you can only hold it in for so long. Thank you, rose city, for the unconditional support this year. It was a good one."

The two teams also met in the 2019 semifinals, with the Red Stars advancing to the title game on a 1-0 victory.

Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (Phone) | 45645 (Text) | (Chat) | More resources

In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat counselling at

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now