Chicago Downs Western New York 1-0 in Home Opener

Naperville native Short celebrates return home with first ever NWSL goal

By Gunnar Berndt

Bridgeview, Ill. – The Chicago Red Stars on Saturday bounced back from last week’s defeat to Houston, downing visiting Western New York Flash 1-0 in their National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) home opener, courtesy of a first-half strike by offseason acquisition and Chicagoland native Casey Short. Facing a Flash squad which had knocked off defending champs FC Kansas City in its first match of the campaign, Head Coach Rory Dames’s side grabbed all three points behind an all-around improved team performance and U.S. ace Alyssa Naeher’s inaugural clean sheet in a Red Stars uniform.

After being on the back foot in the opening stages of the match, the home side quickly settled into a rhythm and subsequently displayed strong possession in the midfield. However, it would be Western New York nearly getting on the board halfway through the opening period, former Chicago center back Abby Erceg rising above everyone on an Elizabeth Eddy corner kick from the right and sending her determined header flashing dangerously wide of the left post.

Just two minutes later, the visitors had their second close look when another ex-Red Star, Jessica McDonald, found Lynn Williams on the left flank and continued her run into the box, only to make poor contact on the subsequent cross for a wasted opportunity from the doorstep. Naeher no doubt breathed a heavy sigh of relief as she dove comfortably to her right to make the grab.

Chicago would punish their opponents for the missed opportunities just before the half-hour mark. A pair of beautiful, quick-succession backheel passes by U.S. standout Christen Press and strike partner Sofia Huerta allowed Vanessa DiBernardo to whip in a cross from the left that caused plenty of problems for the Flash backline, which only managed to clear as far as Short. The outside back didn’t hesitate for a second as she struck the ball first-time from just inside the area to rifle it off Flash defender Erceg and into the bottom right-hand corner.

Four minutes from intermission, Chicago’s Press nearly added her own name to the score sheet in spectacular fashion. Finding herself with the ball at her feet over 35 yards away from goal, the 27-year-old forward sensed Sabrina D’Angelo off her line and hit a perfectly weighted ball that was on its way inside the left upright if not for a scramble and fingertip parry by the Western New York netminder.

The home side continued its stretch of impressive attacking soccer after the break, Short sending a beautiful pass over the top of the opposition defense and Huerta out-muscling Erceg, only to see her chip over the onrushing D’Angelo float narrowly wide left. Just after the hour mark, DiBernardo would be next in line to nearly double the lead, as her mishit cross from the left flank ended up on top of the crossbar. Huerta was back on the attack in the 68th minute. The former Santa Clara star was released on the left by an excellent Press chip, her blast from a tight angle catching D’Angelo off guard and smashing off the post.

Second-year forward Huerta came close again mere moments later, as she cut to her right at the top of the box and fired a rocket across goal that whistled just wide of the right post. The Flash meanwhile only threatened on one occasion in the closing stages, Williams sending in a wicked low cross from the right that came within inches of being tapped home at the doorstep.

Chicago subsequently created two more opportunities to seal the deal. First, Huerta had yet another promising look from just outside the penalty area, this time releasing a low 81st-minute drive that forced D’Angelo to dive to her right and parry wide for a corner. Four minutes later, Press should have had her second tally in as many games, as she sprinted clear on a long ball out of midfield but saw her attempted finish heroically blocked by the body of onrushing shot-stopper D’Angelo.

It would be the day’s final dangerous look, the Red Stars bagging a well-deserved three points which they hope will translate into momentum when expansion club Orlando Pride comes to town on Sunday, May 1. Individual and season tickets for the 2016 campaign at Toyota Park in Bridgeview may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-697-8699.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Western New York Flash 1-0
Venue: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
Scheduled kickoff time: 6 p.m. CT

Red Stars starting lineup:
Alyssa Naeher; Arin Gilliland, Samantha Johnson, Julie Johnston, Casey Short; Vanessa DiBernardo, Danielle Colaprico, Alyssa Mautz; Christen Press, Sofia Huerta, Cara Walls

Flash starting lineup:
Sabrina D’Angelo; Meridith Speck, Abby Erceg, Abby Dahlkemper, Elizabeth Eddy; Alanna Kennedy, Michaela Hahn, Samantha Mewis; Adriana Leon, Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams

Short 28’ CRS


Red Stars substitutions:
Taylor Comeau for Walls 57’
Katie Naughton for Comeau 91+

Flash substitutions:
Lady Andrade for Hahn 46
Taylor Smith for Leon 62
Makenzie Doniak for Eddy 80

Unused substitutes – Red Stars:
Michele Dalton, Sarah Gorden, Courtney Raetzman, Mary Luba, Jen Hoy

Unused substitutes – Flash:
Britt Eckerstrom, Courtney Niemiec, Halimatu Ayinde, Kristen Hamilton

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