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July 6, 2015

Red Stars in the World Cup: Champions at Last!

Johnston goes 90 against Japan, lifts trophy along with trio of fellow Chicago standouts

By Gunnar Berndt
Photo credit: ISI Photos 

Final: USA vs. Japan 5-2

After falling to Japan on penalty kicks in the 2011 final, the United States left not an ounce of doubt this time around, handing their Asian counterparts a 5-2 defeat behind a Carli Lloyd hat trick and additional goals by Lauren Holiday and Tobin Heath. Those watching around the world could hardly believe their eyes as the Americans put the dagger in their overwhelmed opponents early by jumping out to a dominant 4-0 lead by about the quarter hour mark. With the victory, Head Coach Jill Ellis has succeeded in her mission of returning the most coveted of trophies to the United States for the first time since 1999.

Red Stars standouts Julie Johnston, Christen Press, Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx all were among the 23 USWNT players lifting the trophy at Vancouver’s BC Place, Johnston going the distance again and putting in yet another solid performance that included a flick-on to assist on Lloyd’s second tally. Less than two years after turning professional, the Chicago center back sensation finds herself having played every minute of her side’s seven games in the 2015 World Cup and having contributed to a total of five shutouts, earning a nomination for best player of the tournament in the process.

Amidst her rapid rise to stardom, Johnston will hardly be phased by her highly unfortunate own-goal that got Japan on the board in the second half of the final.

The Red White and Blue opened the scoring in just the third minute of play, Megan Rapinoe catching the entire opposition defense off guard with a low, driven corner kick from the right that was smashed home from the penalty spot by a streaking Lloyd. The Houston Dash attacker made it a brace mere moments later, as she was in the right spot at the right time to tap home Johnston’s heel flick on a Holiday free kick from the right flank. With the strike, Lloyd set a new record for the fastest pair of tallies in FIFA Women’s World Cup history.

Holiday would add a goal to her assist in the 14th minute, as Heath whipped in a cross from the right that Azusa Iwashimizu attempted to head clear on a bouncer, only to see the ball pop straight up and fall right into the path of the reigning U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year. A determined volley later, the U.S. was up 3-0 and well on its way to an emphatic win, but that didn’t stop Lloyd from adding the icing to the cake just two minutes later in the form of an absolute wonder goal.

On a Japanese turnover, the 32-year-old displayed mind-blowing intelligence and skill by sprinting past two opposition players before unleashing an attempt at goal from precisely the halfway line that floated over the head of desperately back-pedaling netminder Ayumi Kaihori and inside the left post.

Now trailing by four, Head Coach Norio Sasaki’s squad showed some pride and was rewarded just before the half-hour mark, Nahomi Kawasumi delivering an in-swinger from the right and Yuki Ogimi doing well do fight off Johnston, turn and curl the ball inside the left post to leave Hope Solo without a chance. After Kaihori was forced to tip over Alex Morgan’s long-range blast at the other end, Japan found the net for a second time, captain Aya Miyama’s free kick from the left skimming off the head of Johnston in traffic and leaving Solo helpless yet again.

Just when it seemed the match might get interesting, the Stars and Stripes had other plans, as Morgan Brian made her way to the far post on a corner kick from the left and sent the ball back toward the center of the box, where it was met by Heath for a simple close-range finish. That sealed the deal on an American victory that never seemed seriously in doubt.

While Johnston and Press were playing in their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup, winning the trophy is perhaps most significant to legendary USWNT midfielder and fellow Chicago standout Shannon Boxx, who had narrowly missed out on three previous occasions. Red Stars captain Lori Chalupny returned to soccer’s grandest stage in 2015 after playing in the 2007 edition and subsequently being barred from representing her country for five years due to a history of head injuries.

The Chicago Red Stars will be honoring all eight of their World Cup participants, including their U.S. quartet, in the club’s official “Welcome Back Game” against Boston Breakers on July 18. Single-game and season tickets for the 2015 Red Stars campaign may be purchased by calling 773-698-6001 or by clicking here.


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