Chicago goalkeeper earns fourth consecutive shutout against defending champs

By Gunnar Berndt

Kansas City, Mo. – The Chicago Red Stars extended their unbeaten streak to four games on Friday night, earning a scoreless draw with hosts FC Kansas City in a meeting that saw goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher unaffected by the cold and wind, as she produced several world-class saves en route to her fourth straight shutout. After a tightly contested first half, the U.S. Women’s National Team ace sprang into action several times after the break to deny former Chicago midfielder and long-time FCKC fan favorite Jen Buczkowski a win in the final match of her professional career.

Making her first start since returning from injury, Red Stars offseason acquisition Amanda DaCosta nearly gave her side the lead in the 10th minute of play. On a Danielle Colaprico corner kick from the left, the New York native managed to get a piece of the ball inside the six-yard box, only to see it bounce just past the left upright. Buczkowski tried her luck on the other end seven minutes later, but her drive from the top of the box was kept from finding the upper ninety by the safe hands of Naeher. It would be the final noteworthy action of a relatively uneventful opening period.

The second half rewarded those in attendance at Swope Soccer Village for their patience, although they would not get what they had most come to see—a winning goal by the hosts and defending National Women’s Soccer League (NSWL) champions. In fact, for 25 minutes after the break it appeared as though Chicago might open the scoring, red-hot forward Christen Press coming close first as she out-muscled fellow U.S. ace Becky Sauerbrunn on the right side of the box and released a low drive toward the far post that was tipped aside by a diving Nicole Barnhart.

Shortly thereafter, Press’s strike partner Sofia Huerta tried her luck with an excellent individual effort. Seeing the ball popped into the air by teammate Alyssa Mautz two minutes from the hour mark, the former Santa Clara standout did well to take it down inside the area and explode toward the left before sending a tight-angled blast narrowly over the frame. Kansas City nearly punished their opponents for the missed opportunities in the 62nd minute, as Shea Groom found herself with a bit of time on the edge of the box and took aim for the top shelf, only to see her effort miss by inches as well.

In the 70th minute, it would be the Red Stars with their final noteworthy look of the game, Press sprinting on to Casey Short’s well-timed ball over the top of the defense and chipping onrushing netminder Barnhart, who breathed a sigh of relief as the attempt sailed wide of the right post.

With Chicago subsequently retreating and allowing the hosts to create several promising attacks, the time had come for the heroics of Naeher, who rushed off her line moments after Press’s miss to throw herself into an attempted one-one-one finish by FCKC’s Frances Silva to send the ball bouncing off the crossbar. Midfielder Silva had found her way in on goal courtesy of some beautiful one-touch interplay between Groom, Buczkowski and Mandy Laddish.

Three minutes later, Naeher came up with perhaps her biggest play of the night. Laddish sprinted up the right wing and sent a waist-high cross to the doorstep, where it was redirected via diving header by Groom. What seemed a sure tally instead ended up as a point-blank block by the Red Stars goalkeeper, who flew across to keep out the effort with her right knee. The 28-year-old was back in the spotlight one last time six minutes from the end of regulation, the ball falling to wide open substitute Katie Bowen, who saw her attempted close-range finish inside the right post denied by a Naeher kick save.

The Chicago Red Stars look to extend their unbeaten run when they travel to take on Seattle Reign FC on Sunday, May 22. Head Coach Rory Dames’s squad then returns home for a clash with Sky Blue FC on Sunday, May 29. Individual and season tickets for Chicago’s 2016 campaign at Toyota Park in Bridgeview may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-697-8699.

Chicago Red Stars at FC Kansas City 0-0
Venue: Swope Soccer Village, Kansas City, MO
Scheduled kickoff time: 7:30 p.m. CT

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

FCKC starting lineup:
Nicole Barnhart; Brittany Taylor, Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Arlitt; Desiree Scott, Heather O’Reilly, Jen Buczkowski, Mandy Laddish, Frances Silva; Shea Groom

Goals: None

Cautions/Ejections:
Johnson 39’ CRS (yellow card; reckless foul)

Red Stars substitutions:
Taylor Comeau for DaCosta 70’
Jen Hoy for Colaprico 88’

FCKC substitutions:
Erika Tymrak for O’Reilly 46’
Katie Bowen for Laddish 83’
Tiffany McCarty for Silva 91+

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

Unused substitutes – FCKC:
Katelyn Rowland, Amanda Frisbie, Brianne Reed, Alexa Newfield

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