Entertaining affair sees DiBernardo, Huerta and Press all add to attacking totals

By Gunnar Berndt

Chicago, Ill. – The Chicago Red Stars displayed impressive morale on Sunday evening, as they overcame an early two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with visiting National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) foes Seattle Reign FC. In a highly entertaining contest, Seattle pounced on a pair of opportunities early, Manon Melis and Lauren Barnes finding the net. However, the home side clawed its way back into the match courtesy of a spirited performance and tallies by Sofia Huerta in the first half and Christen Press after the break.

The Red Stars found themselves trailing in only the fifth minute of play. Beverly Yanez slipped the ball through to strike partner Melis, who calmly finished past onrushing goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for a well-worked tally. A mere four minutes later, matters went from bad to worse for Chicago, which saw its disadvantage doubled on a beautiful curling free-kick by Lauren Barnes that found its way inside the right post. Reign FC could have added a third around the quarter-hour mark, but Naeher sprinted off her line to deny Melis another one-on-one strike on Kim Little’s excellent through ball.

Chicago nearly pulled one back halfway through the opening period, as Cara Walls failed to make good contact on her shot attempt when the ball fell to her feet at the doorstep, followed by a Stephanie McCaffrey blast that whistled narrowly past the right post and shook the outside of the net. The home side would not be denied in the 27th minute, Vanessa DiBernardo swinging in a corner kick from the left that found Sofia Huerta at the back stick for a close-range header into the upper ninety. The goal marked Huerta’s fifth of 2016, with DiBernardo bagging her sixth assist.

Red Stars ace Naeher made a stunning double-save late in the half to keep her side within one. Jess Fishlock picked out Yanez inside the box with a delicate pass from midfield and the Seattle attacker threatened with a wicked toe-poke that was popped into the air by a point-blank, one-handed reflex from the U.S. netminder, who then leaped backward to scrape the ball off the line.

Ten minutes into the second period, Naeher picked up right where she had left off, coming up huge by hitting the ground to her right to keep out a diving header from Yanez on Rumi Utsugi’s cross from the left. Chicago’s Press had a quality look at the other end shortly after the hour mark, as Samantha Johnson hit a hopeful long ball into the attack that the Red Stars striker ran onto and touched around a sliding defender for a one-on-one with Kopmeyer. Press’ subsequent move around the Reign FC shot-stopper took her too far off center, with the subsequent effort from a tight angle finding the outside of the net.

California native Press had yet another close look two minutes later. Positioned at the top of the penalty area, McCaffrey picked out her strike partner just outside the five-yard box, followed by a toe-poke across goal and toward the right post that was swatted away by a fully extended Kopmeyer.

Persistence finally paid off for Press with eleven minutes left in regulation time, as she managed to wrong-foot the opposition netminder with a cool finish from the penalty spot. The opportunity had been brought about by a piece of excellent attacking skill from Red Stars left back Casey Short, who had driven into the box on the left and then cut the ball back to her right, prompting Merritt Mathias to clip the Chicagoland native’s feet in order to prevent an open attempt at goal. Press’ subsequent strike was her team-leading sixth of the year.

Before being able to celebrate a hard-fought comeback draw, the home side breathed collective sighs of relief on two separate occasions in the closing stages. First, Mathias’ 86th-minute cross from the right was touched awkwardly by Johnson and sent ricocheting off the crossbar. Then, with just over a minute left in regulation time, the ball bounced around in the five-yard box on a Barnes corner from the right that was headed down by Keelin Winters, goalkeeper Naeher having to throw herself into what might otherwise have been a close-range look for Kendall Fletcher.

With the NWSL playoffs fast approaching, the Chicago Red Stars look to extend their current five-game unbeaten run when they take on defending champs FC Kansas City this coming Wednesday, September 7. Tickets to all home games at Toyota Park in Bridgeview may be purchased by calling 773-697-8699 or by clicking here.

NWSL Match Report
Match: Chicago Red Stars vs. Seattle Reign FC 2-2
Date: September 4, 2016
Venue: Toyota Field, Chicago, Illinois
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT)
Attendance: 3,355

Scoring Summary:

1 2 T
CHI 1 1 2
SEA 2 0 2

SEA – Manon Melis 5’ (Beverly Yanez)
SEA – Lauren Barnes 9’
CHI – Sofia Huerta 27’ (Vanessa DiBernardo)
CHI – Christen Press 79’ (penalty kick)

Lineups:

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 59’ (5-Katie Naughton Substitute 91+)], 24-Danielle Colaprico Midfielder, 10-Vanessa DiBernardo Left Midfielder; 23-Christen Press Forward (capt.), 9-Stephanie McCaffrey Forward (4-Alyssa Mautz Substitute 91+)
Subs not used: 18-Michele Dalton Goalkeeper, 14-Sarah Gorden Substitute, 7-Taylor Comeau Substitute, 15-Courtney Raetzman Substitute, 34-Mary Luba Substitute
Head Coach: Rory Dames

SEA: 28-Haley Kopmeyer Goalkeeper; 20-Rumi Utsugi Right Back, 3-Lauren Barnes Center Back, 13-Kendall Fletcher Center Back, 9-Merritt Mathias Left Back; 8-Kim Little Right Midfielder, 10-Jessica Fishlock Midfielder, 11-Keelin Winters Left Midfielder (capt.); 36-Nahomi Kawasumi Forward, 14-Manon Melis Forward (15-Megan Rapinoe Substitute 69’), 17-Beverly Yanez Forward (16-Carson Pickett Substitute 83’)
Subs not used: 24-Andi Tostanoski Goalkeeper, 7-Elli Reed Substitute, 6-Lindsay Elston Substitute, 19-Havana Solaun Substitute, 25-Kiersten Dallstream Substitute
Head Coach: Laura Harvey

Stats Summary: CHI / SEA
Shots: 10 / 11
Shots on Goal: 6 / 6
Saves: 4 / 4
Corner Kicks: 2 / 2
Fouls: 5 / 8
Offside: 4 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
SEA – Jessica Fishlock (yellow card; defensive handling) 80’

Officials:
Referee: Christina Unkel
Assistant Referee 1: Cory Richardson
Assistant Referee 2: Brooke Mayo
Fourth Official: Cory Dean

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