Red Stars in the World Cup: Johnston’s Rise Continues

Chicago teammate Boxx appears on soccer’s biggest stage for fourth straight time

 By Gunnar Berndt

Group D: USA vs. Nigeria 1-0
Red Stars: Julie Johnston (DEF), Lori Chalupny (MID-DEF), Shannon Boxx (MID), Christen Press (FWD) – all USA

Red Stars ace and 2014 NWSL Rookie of the Year Julie Johnston continued her rapid rise to fame on Tuesday, winning FIFA Player of the Match honors for her performance in the Americans’ 1-0 win over Nigeria, which saw the defender help her side to a second straight shutout and score a goal that was called back for offside. Meanwhile, Chicago and U.S. teammate Shannon Boxx added another chapter to her legendary career by seeing the field in her fourth straight World Cup when she entered as a 74th-minute substitute.

Two more Red Stars, defender-midfielder Lori Chalupny and forward Christen Press were also on the gameday roster for Head Coach Jill Ellis’ squad, which advanced to the knockout stages atop the “Group of Death” and remained undefeated in the process.

The Americans were unlucky to be denied a penalty kick in the first half when Megan Rapinoe’s cross from the right flank struck the extended arm of opposition defender Ngozi Okobi inside the area. Center back Johnston subsequently started to put her stamp on the match, highlights including her disallowed goal and a world-class tackle to deny forward Asisat Oshoala a dangerous scoring chance. Johnston’s teammate Abby Wambach then found the net moments from intermission, as she volleyed home a Rapinoe corner at the far post for the game winner.

Lively American attacker Rapinoe had a pair of promising long-range efforts in the match, and Alex Morgan was released one-on-one with Nigeria’s Precious Dede early in the second half, but the goalkeeper did well to parry the striker’s short-range effort wide. Dede came up with an even better save against Morgan with about half an hour to play, throwing herself in the way of what could have been an easy tap-in on a low centering ball by Ali Krieger from the right flank.

The African champs dug an even deeper hole for themselves when Sarah Nnodim was ejected for her second yellow card following a hard 69th-minute foul on Sydney Leroux, allowing the Red, White and Blue to make use of their numerical advantage by seeing out the game for all three points.

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