Strong display sees Red Stars land crucial punch in fight for playoff positioning

By Gunnar Berndt

Chicago, Ill. – The Chicago Red Stars recorded a 3-1 away win over Sky Blue FC on Saturday evening, bagging a crucial three points that see Head Coach Rory Dames’ squad move six points clear of their New Jersey-based foes in the playoff race and to within one point of second-place Portland Thorns FC. The convincing victory came courtesy of an overall strong team performance as well as impressive attacking displays by Vanessa DiBernardo and goal-scorers Stephanie McCaffrey, Christen Press and Sofia Huerta. Samantha Kerr had the consolation goal for the home side in stoppage time.

The match also featured a combined three last-ditch saves by outstanding Red Stars Alyssa Naeher and Arin Gilliland within a single frantic SBFC attacking sequence late in the first half.

Despite Chicago controlling most of the play in the opening 45 minutes, their opposition nearly had an open look on goal when a mishit clearance by Casey Short sent the ball bouncing into the path of streaking striker Tasha Kai. Battling two defenders, the former U.S. international was denied by current Stars and Stripes ace Naeher, who had rushed off her line and got a touch to avert the danger.

In the 27th minute, McCaffrey came close to opening the scoring at the other end. The recent acquisition from league rivals Boston Breakers found herself with a bit of time outside the box and released a thunderous effort that forced goalkeeper Caroline Stanley to leave her feet and palm over for a corner.

Massachusetts native McCaffrey did add her name to the score sheet moments after the half-hour mark, albeit unintentionally. Guarded by American legend Christie Rampone on the right flank, the forward managed to get a cross off and saw the ball float over the head of the scrambling Stanley before bouncing off the inside of the far post and into the net. Sky Blue FC’s Raquel Rodriguez had a chance to level the match when she pushed into the penalty area three minutes later, but her hard attempt from slightly left of center was tipped around the near post by Naeher.

The home side came closest to equalizing in the 38th minute, allowing Chicago to put in a strong claim for National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Save of the Week in the process.
Positioned well outside the area and to the right of center, Taylor Lytle sent a long ball into the mix that was attacked by Kai and fell right to the feet of wide open Sarah Killion on the edge of the five-yard box. The 24-year-old struck it first-time, only for her close-range effort to be tipped point-blank by Naeher and then scraped off the line in spectacular fashion by the foot of a scrambling Gilliland. The rebound was poked back toward goal by Killion from less than two yards out and was again blocked by the recovering Red Stars netminder.

With the danger still not cleared, Kai managed to volley the ball into the air and send it looping toward goal once more, but Killion appeared to be in an offside position on the play, negating both Gilliland’s header off the line and Kerr’s subsequent touch into the open net.

Veteran Kai continued to create havoc after the break, Leah Galton sprinting down the left and picking out her teammate with a well-placed cross that evaded the reaching fingertips of Naeher. Beating Short to the ball inside the five-yard box, Kai first headed the ball off the crossbar and then side-footed her follow-up attempt over the frame.

Chicago attacker Vanessa DiBernardo subsequently had two opportunities to find the net in as many minutes. After rifling narrowly high from just outside the area about halfway through the second period, the Naperville native took aim again from a similar position moments later. This time, DiBernardo fired across goal and sent Stanley diving to her left to keep out the bouncing effort with a quality save.

The Red Stars assists leader would be involved in the attack again in the 73rd minute, as she brought her 2016 total to six by setting up U.S. international Press’ game-winner. Anticipating the imminent through-ball, Press first held her run to avoid being caught offside and then moved at the perfect moment for a one-on-one look, followed by a calm finish past the onrushing Stanley and inside the left upright.

The visitors from the Windy City put the match out of reach with ten minutes left in regulation time, and again DiBernardo played a crucial part. The longest-tenured member of the Chicago roster swung in a corner kick from the left that was flicked on by the head of a determined Gilliland and found Huerta wide open at the near post. The second-year professional had ample time to control and side-foot home for a simple tally from close range.

Press could have added to her side’s lead in the 85th minute, driving into the box left of center and releasing a powerful attempt that forced Stanley to parry wide. However, instead a fourth from the Red Stars, Kerr took full advantage of being left unmarked at the other end deep inside stoppage time, as she tapped home a low driven cross by Galton from the left.

Chicago looks to extend its current four-game unbeaten streak with a win over visiting Seattle Reign FC on Saturday, September 4. Tickets to all Red Stars home games at Toyota Park in Bridgeview may be purchased here or by calling 773-697-8699.

NWSL Match Report
Match: Chicago Red Stars at Sky Blue FC 3-1
Date: August 27, 2016
Venue: Yurcak Field, Piscataway Township, New Jersey
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT)
Attendance: 3,108

Scoring Summary:

1 2 T
SBFC 0 1 1
CHI 1 2 3

CHI – Stephanie McCaffrey 31’
CHI – Christen Press 73’ (Vanessa DiBernardo)
CHI – Sofia Huerta 80’ (Arin Gilliland)
SBFC – Samantha Kerr 92+ (Leah Galton)

Lineups:

SBFC: 18-Caroline Stanley Goalkeeper; 33-Erin Simon Right Back (19-Kelley O’Hara Substitute 47’), 13-Kristin Grubka Center Back, 3-Christie Rampone Center Back (capt.), 8-Erica Skroski Left Back; 20-Samantha Kerr Right Midfielder, 16-Sarah Killion Midfielder, 6-Taylor Lytle Midfielder (24-Kelly Conheeney Substitute 89’), 11-Raquel Rodriguez Left Midfielder; 21-Leah Galton Forward, 32-Tasha Kai Forward (5-Maya Hayes Substitute 67’)
Subs not used: 27-Caroline Casey Goalkeeper, 15-CoCo Goodson Substitute, 2-Shawna Gordon Substitute, 7-Nikki Stanton Substitute
Head Coach: Christy Holly

CHI: 1-Alyssa Naeher Goalkeeper; 3-Arin Gilliland Right Back, 8-Julie Johnston Center Back, 16-Samantha Johnson Center Back, 6-Casey Short Left Back; 11-Sofia Huerta Right Midfielder, 12 Cara Walls Midfielder (13-Amanda DaCosta Substitute 83’), 24-Danielle Colaprico Midfielder, 10-Vanessa DiBernardo Left Midfielder (5-Katie Naughton Substitute 87’); 23-Christen Press Forward, 9-Stephanie McCaffrey Forward (4-Alyssa Mautz Substitute 68’)
Subs not used: 18-Michele Dalton Goalkeeper, 14-Sarah Gorden Substitute, 15-Courtney Raetzman Substitute, 34-Mary Luba Substitute
Head Coach: Rory Dames

Stats Summary: SBFC / CHI
Shots: 15 / 19
Shots on Goal: 5 / 10
Saves: 7 / 3
Corner Kicks: 3 / 9
Fouls: 2 / 8
Offside: 1 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
CHI – Alyssa Mautz (yellow card; reckless foul) 92+

Officials:
Referee: Danielle Brzezinski-Chesky
Assistant Referee 1: Amilcar Sicaju
Assistant Referee 2: Brooke Mayo
Fourth Official: Rosario Candela

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