Today the Washington Spirit and the Chicago Red Stars face off in the 2021 NWSL championship game in Louisville. Fans can watch the special pregame show featuring Lori Lindsey on Paramount Plus beginning at 11:30 am ET. Game coverage switches to CBS at noon ET.
Keeper Notes has compiled a few “fun facts” and other notables about this matchup. Enjoy! Got an NWSL stat question? Ask the Keeper.
History in the making
• Neither team has won the NWSL championship before, nor any NWSL trophy (Challenge Cup, NWSL Shield, Fall Series).
• Red Stars head coach Rory Dames and Spirit acting head coach Kris Ward have never faced off in NWSL play. All three Chicago-Washington meetings in the 2021 regular season occurred before Kris Ward took over in mid-August. Ward is the first acting/interim head coach to reach an NWSL final.
• Chicago is the first #4 seed to reach the NWSL final since 2016 (WNY Flash).
• This is the first time that neither the #1 nor the #2 seed has reached the final.
• Tori Huster is the only player still with the Spirit who played in the 2016 final vs WNY Flash.
• Morgan Gautrat, Sarah Gorden, Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo are the only Chicago starters from the 2019 final vs. North Carolina who are available for this match. DiBernardo has started every playoff game in Chicago Red Stars history.
OUT for Washington: Averie Collins, Jordan DiBiasi, Bayley Feist, Tori Huster
OUT for Chicago: Julie Ertz, Casey Krueger, Alyssa Naeher, Kealia Watt
2021 Goalkeeper of the Year Aubrey Bledsoe is celebrating her birthday today, as is Washington’s acting head coach Kris Ward. A win for Washington would mean that Bledsoe would be the second player to win an NWSL title on her birthday (after Sam Mewis won with Western NY Flash on her 24th birthday in 2016); Ward would be the league’s first coach to win the championship on his birthday.
Ironwomen in this game
Chicago defender Sarah Gorden and Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe are two of the three “ironwomen” from the 2021 regular season, i.e. they’ve played every possible minute for their respective clubs.
Award winners in the final
The NWSL Rookie of the Year has reached the final just once before — 2017 winner Ashley Hatch played in the 2017 final with North Carolina, falling 1-0 to Portland. 2021 Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman could become the first rookie winner to also win the NWSL championship in the same year.
Aubrey Bledsoe is the second Goalkeeper of the Year to reach the final — two-time honoree Adrianna Franch played in the final both years that she earned Best Keeper, and won the 2017 final with Portland.
The Golden Boot winner (top scorer in regular season) has played in the final three times previously, but only once has that Golden Boot winner also come away with the championship trophy — Lynn Williams in 2016 with the Western NY Flash. Ashley Hatch is the 4th Golden Boot winner to reach the final.
There are just two players in this match who have previously won an NWSL championship game — Washington’s Emily Sonnett in 2017 with Portland and Chicago’s Makenzy Doniak in 2016 with the Western NY Flash.
Lynn Williams (2016) and Lindsey Horan (2017) are tied for the honor of youngest player to score in an NWSL final. Both were age 24 years, 4 months and 22 days when they scored — Horan’s was the game-winner for Portland, while Williams netted a last-gasp equalizer in extra-time to force PKs for the Western NY Flash.
On the other hand, the oldest to score in the NWSL final is Christine Sinclair, who scored Portland’s insurance goal in the 2-0 victory over the Western NY Flash in 2013. Sinclair was 30 years and a few months old at the time.