Stingy defense and Press tally once again the difference

By Gunnar Berndt

Allton, Mass. – The Chicago Red Stars on Saturday earned their third consecutive 1-0 win, in a match that resembled last week’s defeat of Orlando Pride. Faced with hosts Boston Breakers this time around, Head Coach Rory Dames’s side once again put up a stingy defensive display and, as against the Pride, rode a second-half goal by U.S. international Christen Press to victory. Press’s fellow Stars and Stripes ace Alyssa Naher earned her third shutout in four games in 2016, in part thanks to a missed penalty kick by Kristie Mewis late in the opening period.

Chicago had the day’s first promising look in the sixth minute, Sofia Huerta sending a low ball into the area from the right that made its way past a couple of near tap-ins before finding Press at the far post. The California native cut to her right and rifled a hard shot on target that was well held on to by goalkeeper Abby Smith.

Entering the match without a goal to their name this season, the Breakers were determined to change that against their opponents from Illinois. Australia striker Kyah Simon came agonizingly close just before the quarter-hour mark, as she managed to get free on the left and chest-trap a chipped ball across the area, only to see her tight-angled shot toward the far post tipped wide by a diving Naeher.

The hosts came even closer to grabbing the lead moments later. On a corner kick from the left, the ball was headed on goal twice in quick succession, first by Simon and then by Julie King, with Red Stars Vanessa DiBernardo and Danielle Colaprico producing dramatic goal-line clearances. The visitors nearly punished their opponents for the missed chances in the 20th minute of play, outside back Arin Gilliland firing low from the left side of the box and sending the ball bouncing off the near post.

Halfway through the opening period, Chicago came close to scoring once more, as a throw-in from the right caught the Breakers defense off guard and found a wide-open Jen Hoy, who slid into the ball and was unfortunate to see her attempt from inside the area skip just past the left upright. Hoy would be involved in the action again just after the half-hour mark, in a play that saw her run on to a long ball by Gilliland and miss the goal with her chip over the onrushing Smith, who sustained an injury in the process and had to be replaced by former Liverpool Ladies shot-stopper Lilly Stout.

Boston’s best opportunity to end its goal-scoring drought came in the 40th minute, following an alleged foul by U.S. center back Julie Johnston inside the box. Mewis stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick and appeared to have her attempt toward the right post parried in spectacular fashion by former Breakers netminder Naeher, but replays later revealed that the ball had first struck the upright and then ricocheted off the 28-year-old’s outstretched arm.

The Breakers created their next quality chance early in the second half, King seeing the ball chipped into her path on the edge of the area, slightly to the right of center, and hitting a powerful blast on the bounce that whistled just over the crossbar. In the 52nd minute of play, it would be Hoy causing havoc again at the other end, as she ran onto a pass on the left side of the box and sent a low drive across goal that was kept from finding inside netting courtesy of a fingertip save by the diving Stout.

Hoy’s strike partner Press would not be denied at the hour mark. Having been relatively quiet up to that point, the FIFA Women’s World Cup champ proved her class in impressive fashion when she blasted a first-time shot into the upper ninety from the edge of the area, following DiBernardo’s corner kick from the right and a suboptimal clearance by a Breakers defender.

The home side subsequently struggled to recover from the setback and nearly fell victim to another Press attempt seven minutes from full time. On a counter attack, the 27-year-old found herself with space and time just outside the box, only to see her left-footed curler toward the far post parried behind by Stout.

Despite displaying some savvy possession play during the remainder of the game, the Red Stars had to survive one last scare in the waning moments. On a long pass into the penalty area, Mewis did well to bring the ball down and was immediately swarmed by a pair of defenders, still somehow forcing a deflection off onrushing goalkeeper Naeher. The latter breathed a sigh of relief as she pounced and held on to a hard-fought three points.

The Chicago Red Stars look to continue their win streak when they travel to take on defending champions FC Kansas City on Friday, May 13, in a rematch of the two teams’ 2015 postseason semifinal clash. After its ongoing road swing, Chicago returns home for a clash with Sky Blue FC on Sunday, May 29. Individual and season tickets for the club’s 2016 campaign at Toyota Park in Bridgeview may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-697-8699.

Chicago Red Stars at Boston Breakers 1-0
Venue: Jordan Field, Allston, MA
Scheduled kickoff time: 6 p.m. CT

Red Stars starting lineup:
Alyssa Naeher; Arin Gilliland, Julie Johnston, Samantha Johnson, Casey Short; Danielle Colaprico, Alyssa Mautz, Vanessa DiBernardo; Sofia Huerta, Christen Press, Jen Hoy

Boston starting lineup:
Abby Smith; Julie King, Whitney Engen, Kassey Kallman, Mollie Pathman; McCall Zerboni, Angela Salem, Louise Schillgard; Kristie Mewis, Stephanie McCaffrey, Kyah Simon

Goal:
Press 60’ CRS

Cautions/Ejections:
Hoy 7’ CRS (yellow card; reckless foul)

Red Stars substitutions:
Amanda DaCosta for Hoy 55’
Katie Naughton for DiBernardo 91+

Boston substitutions:
Libby Stout for Smith 32’
Katie Schoepfer for Simon 67’
Elise Kreighoff for Salem 86’

Unused substitutes – Red Stars:
Michele Dalton, Sarah Gorden, Taylor Comeau, Mary Luba, Courtney Raetzman

Unused substitutes – Boston:
Christen Westphal, Brooke Elby, Rachel Wood, Brittany Ratcliffe

%d bloggers like this: