Early Press strike not enough as Dash rookies put on clinic

By Gunnar Berndt

Houston, Tex. – The Chicago Red Stars fell 3-1 to home side Houston Dash in the two sides’ 2016 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) opener on Saturday evening. In a tough match, Chicago opened the scoring through U.S. striker Christen Press early on but subsequently found itself unable to match the Dash’s dynamic attacking play powered in large parts by rookies Janine Beckie and Rachel Daly. The duo each scored a goal in the game, with the latter also bagging a beautiful assist on Carli Lloyds second-half game winner.

Houston set the tone early on, as Beckie flew up the right wing in the second minute and picked out Daly at the top of the box, the striker’s first-time effort sailing just over the crossbar. However, it would be Chicago grabbing the lead just before the quarter-hour mark. A defensive backpass from the Dash midfield evaded everyone and allowed Press to sprint clear in on goal for a calm finish past the onrushing Lydia Williams and into the bottom right-hand corner.

In the 22nd minute, Houston would itself capitalize on a defensive error, Samantha Johnson looking to intercept a Lloyd through-ball but instead sliding it into the path of Daly, who curled a shot around goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and inside the near post. Lloyd could have added her own name to the score sheet halfway through the opening period. Andressa found Beckie on the right and the attacker sent a cross into the area that Naeher looked to grab, only for the ball to fall to the U.S. superstar, who cut to her left and released a vicious short-range blast that was heroically parried by the Chicago netminder.

It would be the visitors from Illinois back on the offensive in the 33rd minute, midfielder Danielle Colaprico producing a thunderous effort from well outside the box that seemed destined to find its way underneath the crossbar if not for Williams leaving her feet and tipping it over in spectacular fashion. In the second half, the Red Stars picked up where they had left off, as Press ran on to an attacking pass on the left side of the box and created some space for herself courtesy of impressive footwork. Her subsequent rocket from a tight angle forced Williams to tip the ball around the near post.

Instead of a Chicago lead, the home side would find the net twice in quick succession, starting with a well worked goal by Lloyd in the 51st minute. Beckie picked out Daly near the left edge of the penalty area and the rookie’s delicate cross served the ball up on a platter for the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, who nodded home from the doorstep.

Daly’s fellow first-year professional Beckie would seal the deal and put the icing on her own outstanding performance just three minutes later. Kealia Ohai received the ball on the left side of the box and smartly picked out the former Texas Tech star, who quickly turned and rifled an unstoppable shot across the goal that settled inside the right post.

Visibly affected by the setbacks, Chicago struggled to put up much resistance during the remainder of the match and was fortunate not to concede again on two separate occasions. First, substitute Stephanie Ochs whipped in a low ball from the right in the 82nd minute that was dangerously deflected for a corner by a Red Stars defender but could have easily resulted in an own-goal. Then, Naeher showed once again why she is considered one of the country’s best goalkeepers, as another substitute, Chioma Ubogagu, sent in a cross from the left and the 27-year-old dived to her right to block Ochs’s first-time hit from close range.

It would be the final opportunity of a match that has Chicago fans hoping for an improved performance in the club’s home opener on Saturday, April 23. Individual and season tickets for the Red Stars’ 2016 campaign at Toyota Park in Bridgeview may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-697-8699.

Chicago Red Stars at Houston Dash 1-3
Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
Scheduled kickoff time: 7:30 p.m. CT

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

Houston starting lineup:
Lydia Williams, Poliana, Ellie Brush, Becca Moros, Allysha Chapman, Andressa, Amber Brooks, Carli Lloyd, Rachel Daly, Janine Beckie, Kealia Ohai

Goals:
Press 13’ CRS
Daly 22’ HOU
Lloyd 51’ HOU (Daly)
Beckie 54’ HOU (Ohai)

Cautions:
Mautz 61’ CRS (tactical foul)
Johnson 76’ CRS (tactical foul)

Red Stars substitutions:
Courtney Raetzman in for Hoy 61’
Sarah Gorden in for Mautz 83’
Cara Walls in for Huerta 83’

Houston substitutions:
Chioma Ubogagu in for Beckie 71’
Stephanie Ochs in for Ohai 81’
Caity Heap in for Andressa 88’

Unused substitutes – Red Stars:
Michele Dalton, Katie Naughton, Mary Luba

Unused substitutes – Houston:
Bianca Henninger, Cari Roccardo, Morgan Brian, Cami Privett, Denise O’Sullivan, Melissa Henderson

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