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Stays atop NWSL standings despite having undefeated streak snapped

By Gunnar Berndt

Rochester, N.Y. – The NWSL-leading Chicago Red Stars capped off their four-game road swing with a 3-1 defeat to Western New York Flash on Saturday night. The result, which came courtesy of second-half tallies by the home side’s Sam Mewis, Elizabeth Eddy and Jamia Fields, snapped a seven-game unbeaten run for the visitors to open the season and a ten-game unbeaten run dating back to 2014. Red-hot Chicago striker Sofia Huerta bagged the late consolation goal, moments after having a penalty kick attempt saved.

The game’s first promising look went to hosts Western New York in the second minute, as a corner kick from the left saw Red Stars goalkeeper Michele Dalton struggle to control the ball in traffic but then recover well to deny Mewis at the far post. The next quality chance was created by Chicago, as Vanessa DiBernardo released Huerta down the left and the striker cut to her right before releasing a powerful drive that was deflected by a defender and whistled wide of the frame.

After potential goal-saving tackles by Red Stars center backs Samantha Johnson in the 22nd minute and Michelle Lomnicki in the 25th minute, teammate Alyssa Mautz nearly opened the scoring at the other end around the half-hour mark. DiBernardo picked out Arin Gilliland on the left and the rookie engaged her marker with some nice footwork, followed by a right-footed cross that found an open Mautz at the far post. The attacker was unlucky to arrive slightly late, her volleyed attempt missing just wide.

The visitors had another dangerous opportunity in first-half stoppage time, as some nice interplay between Mautz and Taryn Hemmings sent the 25-year-old Mautz into the box on the right, DiBernardo nearly capitalizing on the layoff by releasing a low first-time effort that was saved by a diving Chantel Jones.

While the Red Stars defense had looked solid throughout the opening period, the Flash took control after the break and put on an impressive attacking display. The first tally came courtesy of strong buildup play and a great individual effort by Mewis, rookie Fields opening up the field with an intelligent 51st-minute centering ball from the right to Eddy and the former USC Trojan leaving it to Mewis, who dribbled past several defenders and slotted inside the right post to make it 1-0.

The Flash never looked back after finding the net once, as Eddy added a goal to her assist halfway through the second period to double the home side’s advantage. Williams streaked down the right flank and sent a low cross toward the feet of the California native, who beat a defender to the ball inside the box before flicking it up to herself and then over onrushing netminder Dalton with an exquisite touch.

Western New York would put the icing on the cake in the 75th minute with perhaps the most impressive of three well-taken goals. Finding herself facing the Chicago area with few options available, Fields cut to her left and fired a left-footed laser beam into the upper ninety from 30 yards out. The wonder tally was made possible by Becky Edwards, who had freed herself up with a skillful move in midfield and found her teammate with a pinpoint accurate long pass up the field.

Just as it seemed the home side might be able to earn a clean sheet on top of three points, the Red Stars were awarded a penalty kick following a chaotic sequence that saw substitute forward Mary Luba go down in the area and a Flash player subsequently handle the ball. Determined to tie Crystal Dunn atop the NWSL goal-scoring charts, Chicago striker Huerta stepped up to the spot, only to see Jones dive to her right and parry the waist-high attempt wide of the post.

Huerta did find the net on the ensuing corner kick. Gilliland met DiBernardo’s in-swinger with her head to rattle the crossbar, Cara Walls managing to redirect the rebound against the right post while wrestling a pair of Flash players on the doorstep, followed by a simple tap into the open net by the visitors’ most in-form attacker.

It would be the game’s final noteworthy action, as the NWSL-leading Chicago Red Stars look to get back on track when they return to Benedictine University in Lisle for a June 20 blockbuster meeting with second-place Washington Spirit. Single-game and season tickets for the club’s 2015 campaign may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-698-6001.

Chicago Red Stars at Western New York Flash 1-3
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium, Rochester, NY
Scheduled kickoff time: 6 p.m. CT

Red Stars starting lineup:
Dalton, Gilliland, Johnson, Lomnicki, Hemmings, Quon, Colaprico, DiBernardo, Mautz, Walls, Huerta

Western New York starting lineup:
Jones, Edmonds, Taylor, Dahlkemper, Hinkle, Edwards, Mewis, Spencer; Fields, Williams, Hamilton

Goals: Mewis WNYF 51’ (Eddy) – Eddy WNYF 72’ (Williams) – Fields WNYF (Edwards) 75’ – Huerta (DiBernardo) CRS 93+

Cautions/Ejections:
Lomnicki CRS 57’ (caution – reckless foul)
Mewis WNYF 85’ (caution – reckless foul)

Red Stars substitutions:
Luba in for Mautz 69’
Tejada in for Quon 79’
Jakes in for Lomnicki 83’

Western New York substitutions:
Eddy in for Hamilton 46’
Nick in for Spencer 65’
Frisbie in for Edmonds 88’

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