Press scores winner while goalkeeper Naeher earns second consecutive shutout

By Gunnar Berndt

Bridgeview, Ill. – The Chicago Red Stars on Sunday registered their second consecutive victory in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) play by downing visiting expansion side Orlando Pride 1-0. In a hard-fought clash, the Red Stars prevailed courtesy of striker Christen Press’s game-winner, her second goal in three games this season, and fellow U.S. internatioal Alyssa Naeher’s second straight clean sheet in between the posts. Chicago managed to contain opposition standout Alex Morgan despite the absence of Stars and Stripes center back Julie Johnston due to injury.

The home side was first to threaten on goal when Sofia Huerta pounced on a giveaway just before the quarter-hour mark and slotted the ball through to Press, who saw her attempted finish blocked point-blank by another U.S. ace, Pride netminder Ashlyn Harris. California native Press was involved in the attack again in the 33rd minute, sending Jen Hoy sprinting toward the byline and seeing the 25-year-old’s chip into the box sail inches over the head of Alyssa Mautz at the doorstep.

Hoy could have added her own name to the score sheet late in the opening period, as she received the ball in midfield and alertly recognized some questionable positioning by the Orlando backline. The former Princeton star surprised three opposition defenders by exploding past them and all the way in on goal, only to be denied a potentially spectacular tally by Laura Alleway’s last-ditch recovery slide.

The visiting Pride had the first promising look of the second half, Kristen Edmonds swinging in a cross from the left that was headed on by Maddy Evans at the top of the area and nodded down from close range by Hagen, whose attempt found the welcoming arms of Naeher. The 56th minute of play then nearly saw the Red Stars’ recently injured offseason acquisition Amanda DaCosta celebrate her Chicago debut in style, as her rocket from the top of the box following some beautiful interplay with Mautz forced an outstanding fingertip parry by Harris.

With the hour mark approaching, Orlando had back-to-back opportunities to level the score. First Morgan’s flick-on header freed up Lianne Sanderson inside the penalty area and the striker nearly found herself in a one-on-one with Naeher, if not for a desperate sliding block by defender Samantha Johnson. On the ensuing Sanderson corner kick from the left, Hagen rose highest at the far post and managed to head the ball toward goal, only for Evans to have her subsequent toe-poke from close range deflected behind by a scrambling Mautz.

Sanderson had yet another chance to tally an assist in the 63rd minute, but her centering ball from the right whizzed just by the foot of Hagen for what could have been a simple tap-in. Hagen was again involved in the action mere moments later, as she received the ball on the right side of the box and picked out the open Morgan in the center, only to see Arin Gilliland this time coming up with a last-ditch slide to prevent the equalizer.

The Red Stars would punish their opponents for the missed opportunities two minutes later. On a free-kick from inside the center circle, holding midfielder Danielle Colaprico lifted a perfectly weighted ball into the area that was beautifully brought down by Press. The 26-year-old wasted little time in blasting a right-footed effort past the helpless Harris and inside the right post.

The home side could have doubled its lead in the 79th minute of play, Colaprico swinging in a corner kick from the left and finding the head of outside back Casey Short at the far post. The Naperville native did well to power the ball back across goal but was denied in spectacular fashion by Harris, who left her feet to parry wide. Orlando had one last chance to salvage a point in the closing stages. Edmonds sent Jasmyne Spencer through on the right side of the box and the substitute’s low centering ball seemed to be begging for a first-time finish, only to end up evading everyone in the vicinity.

The Chicago Red Stars look to continue their win streak when they travel to take on Boston Breakers on Saturday, May 7. After a three-game road swing, the team led by Head Coach Rory Dames returns home for a clash with Sky Blue FC on Sunday, May 29. Individual and season tickets for the 2016 campaign at Toyota Park in Bridgeview may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-697-8699.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Orlando Pride 1-0
Venue: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
Scheduled kickoff time: 5 p.m. CT

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

Orlando starting lineup:
Ashlyn Harris; Josée Bélanger, Laura Alleway, Monica, Stephanie Catley; Kaylyn Kyle, Kristen Edmonds, Maddy Evans; Lianne Sanderson, Sarah Hagen, Alex Morgan

Goal:
Press 65’ CRS (Colaprico)

Cautions/Ejections:
Evans 41’ ORL (yellow card; reckless foul)

Red Stars substitutions:
Amanda DaCosta for Hoy 51’
Taylor Comeau for DiBernardo 89’

Orlando substitutions:
Sam Witteman for Evans 64’
Jasmyne Spencer for Hagen 73’
Becky Edwards for Sanderson 81’

Unused substitutes – Red Stars:
Michele Dalton, Julie Johnston, Sarah Gorden, Courtney Raetzman, Mary Luba

Unused substitutes – Orlando:
Aubrey Bledsoe, Cami Levin, Dani Weatherholt, Jamia Fields

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