Dunn scores late to prevent Spirit’s first home defeat of 2015
By Gunnar Berndt
Germantown, Md. – The NWSL-leading Chicago Red Stars were on the verge of handing third-place Washington Spirit its first home defeat of the season on Saturday night, striker Christen Press giving the visitors the lead with a stunning long-range blast in the opening period. Fellow U.S. international Crystal Dunn tied the match in the closing stages of an entertaining affair that saw Chicago put on a strong overall performance to remain unbeaten in four consecutive matches.
The Red Stars had the day’s first promising look in just the sixth minute of play, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris doing well to palm away a powerful effort from Canucks striker Adriana Leon, one of five 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup stars in her side’s starting lineup. Washington created a chance of its own four minutes later, but Laura del Rio’s drive from inside the box was saved by another Canada international, Karina LeBlanc, and the ball subsequently cleared.
Press would give the Red Stars the lead at the half-hour mark courtesy of her second goal in as many matches since winning the World Cup with the Red, White and Blue. The 26-year-old found herself with time inside the opposition half and took a couple of touches before blasting a rocket past the outstretched Harris and inside the left upright from well outside the box.
California native Press could have had another tally in first-half stoppage time, but her near-post flick following excellent work on the right by Taryn Hemmings was deflected wide. Forward Jen Hoy then had one last look for Chicago before the break, World Cup Golden Ball nominee Julie Johnston driving into the box on the right and centering to the former Princeton standout, who was unlucky to see her goal-bound attempt from close range blocked by a Washington defender.
In the second half, Red Stars center back Johnston had a pair of excellent clearances on either side of a dangerous 56th-minute shot by the Spirit’s Dunn, who let fly with her left boot from just outside the area, only to see the ball whistle over the frame. Chicago’s Hoy came agonizingly close to doubling her team’s advantage at the other end, Vanessa DiBernardo getting around a defender on the right and picking out the 24-year-old, whose second stab at the ball from the doorstep forced a point-black reflex save from Harris.
The chance came a mere two minutes after Red Stars forward Press nearly punished the hosts for some sloppy defending at the hour mark, as she applied pressure on a risky back pass by Megan Oyster to goalkeeper Harris and was unfortunate to see her touch trickle over the endline.
Moments after defender Samantha Johnson’s 80th-minute challenge against Washington’s Dunn in the box was judged to have been fair, the Stars and Stripes striker tied the match from the run of play, pouncing on the rebound from a blocked Christine Nairn effort. After taking control of the ball, the 23-year-old Dunn showed unstoppable determination in firing a low, left-footed drive inside the left post to leave goalkeeper LeBlanc without a chance.
Chicago had an instant response, but rookie sensation Sofia Huerta’s right-footed curler from the left side of the box was saved in spectacular fashion by Harris, who left her feet and tipped the ball out from behind her before it could find its way inside the far post.
The Spirit subsequently created a pair of opportunities to steal all three points. First, substitute Hayley Raso released a powerful shot that took a deflection en route to whistling wide of the left upright. Then, Ali Krieger found fellow American international Dunn on the right and the New York state native drove into the penalty area before firing toward the near post to force a diving save from LeBlanc.
It took one last goal-line clearance from the Red Stars’ Johnston for the visitors to bag a valuable away draw, which puts Head Coach Rory Dames’ squad two points ahead of second-place Seattle Reign FC in the standings.
The Chicago Red Stars look to defend their top spot in the NWSL standings when they return home for an August 1 clash with defending NWSL champions FC Kansas City that is likely to feature several World Cup winners on both teams. Single-game and season tickets for the 2015 campaign may be purchased by visiting www.chicagoredstars.com or by calling 773-698-6001.
Chicago Red Stars at Washington Spirit 1-1
Venue: Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex, Germantown, MD
Scheduled kickoff time: 6 p.m. CT
Red Stars starting lineup:
LeBlanc, Gilliland, Johnston, Johnson, Hemmings, Chalupny, Colaprico, DiBernardo, Leon, Hoy, Press
Washington Spirit starting lineup:
Harris, Reynolds, Oyster, Krieger, Johnson, Church, Nairn, Matheson, Del Rio, Dunn, Huster
Goals: Press CRS 30’ – Dunn WAS 82’
Hemmings CRS 74’
Red Stars substitutions:
Mautz in for Leon 60’
Huerta in for Hoy 67’
Quon in for Gilliland 88’
Washington Spirit substitutions:
Ordega in for Del Rio 46+
Da Costa in for Huster 68’
Raso in for Matheson 77’