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NWSL leaders earn valuable road point behind strong defensive play

By Gunnar Berndt

Seattle, Wash. – The Chicago Red Stars remained unbeaten through seven National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) matches on Saturday night, battling home side and defending Shield holders Seattle Reign FC to a scoreless draw behind a disciplined defensive performance and strong play by goalkeeper Michele Dalton. The 26-year-old Illinois made a total of seven saves during the match to earn her second shutout of the 2015 campaign.

After controlling possession in the opening stages, Seattle created the game’s first promising look in the 13th minute. Reigning league MVP Kim Little drove to the by-line on the left side and picked out a wide open Danielle Foxhoven, whose mishit shot from inside the area fell right to the feet of Merritt Mathias. Fortunately for the Red Stars, the midfielder’s close-range effort lacked both precision and power and was thus picked up comfortably by shot-stopper Dalton.

Chicago midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo did get all of the ball at the other end, as she released a powerful 20th-minute shot from just inside the area that took a wicked deflection and was parried around the post by diving Reign FC netminder Haley Kopmeyer. Red Stars center back Michelle Lomnicki came even closer to scoring on the ensuing DiBernardo corner kick from the right, as she nodded the ball toward the open net, only to see it cleared off the line by the head of Seattle defender Elli Reed.

The remainder of the half featured little in the way of opportunities, aside from a pair of Reign FC attempts that forced solid stops from Dalton, who did well to avoid giving up rebounds all night.

As is often the case in meetings between two strong sides, promising attacks were frequently met by well-organized defending, which had the fans at Seattle’s Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium waiting until the 65th minute for the next quality chance. On a corner from the left by Chicago’s Danielle Colaprico, teammate Lomnicki wrestled off several defenders to get her head on the ball once more, but her close-range attempt bounced just wide of the left upright for an agonizing miss.

Reign FC had an excellent opportunity of its own eleven minutes later, attacker Mathias smashing a powerful right-footed drive off the top the crossbar from just outside the penalty area.

It was the first in a series of three straight promising looks for the hosts. After substitute Rachel Corsie sent in a dangerous 82nd-minute cross form the right that was touched just wide of the goal by the foot of a Red Stars defender, Beverly Yanez beat goalkeeper Dalton to the ball on the ensuing corner kick and was unlucky to see her header sail just high of the unguarded frame.

It would be the day’s final chance, as Chicago did well to fend off wave after wave of Seattle attacks in the closing stages and hold on to a valuable road point.

The NWSL-leading Chicago Red Stars look to remain unbeaten through eight regular season games when they travel to take on Western New York Flash on June 6. The club’s next home match is on June 20 against Washington Spirit. Single-game and season tickets for the 2015 Red Stars campaign may be purchased by visiting www.chicagoredstars.com or by calling 773-698-6001.

Chicago Red Stars at Seattle Reign FC 0-0
Venue: Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium, Seattle, WA
Scheduled kickoff time: 9 p.m. CT

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

Seattle starting lineup:
Kopmeyer, Reed, Fletcher, Barnes, Cox, Winters, Brooks, Little, Foxhoven, Yanez, Mathias

Goals: None

Cautions/Ejections:
Colaprico CRS 62’ (caution – reckless foul)
Mathias SRFC 94+ (caution – reckless foul)

Red Stars substitutions:
Walls for Hoy 40’
Luba for Mautz 83’

Seattle substitutions:
Nogueira in for Foxhoven 71’
Corsie in for Reed 77’

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