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Hit road after “disappointing” home draw with Breakers

By Gunnar Berndt

Chicago, Ill. – After battling visiting Boston Breakers to a 1-1 result in front of a sellout crowd this past Saturday, the Red Stars hit the road for Wednesday’s rematch in Massachusetts. Head Coach Rory Dames and up-and-coming rookie Arin Gilliland offered their analyses of the draw at Benedictine University in Lisle and looked ahead to the second clash with Boston within a five-day span.

The July 22 fixture at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium is scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. CT and will be streamed live here.

Having defeated the Breakers 3-0 earlier in the in the season, the NWSL-leading Red Stars were widely expected to bag another win in their second match against Head Coach Tom Durkin’s team, which instead snapped a three-game losing streak. Stephanie McCaffrey scored the equalizer for Boston a mere eight minutes after the second-half go-ahead goal by Chicago captain Lori Chalupny, who was honored as one of the club’s eight returning FIFA Women’s World Cup players following the final whistle.

Said defender Gilliland, “Nerves definitely played a bit of a role, but at the same time we’re a team and we knew our internationals would come back, so we’ve been preparing for it and should have handled the adjustment better. We’re still playing the same style and have the same game plan that has worked for us since the beginning of the season. Having the World Cup players rejoin probably had a bit of an emotional effect, but we still should have been able to execute our game plan.”

The sentiment was echoed by Head Coach Dames.

“It was pretty disappointing,” he admitted. “You could make the argument that is was one of our, if not the worst game of the year. It wasn’t so much the result but the fact it was the first game in a while where we took a step backwards in a few areas.

“There could be many reasons, such as the heat or the nerves because of the big crowd and the World Cup players being back. But that doesn’t make it okay. Our players have done very well for us over the past six weeks. They need to maintain that form and try to continue to improve.”

Chicago entered the meeting with Boston fresh off consecutive road wins, a 3-0 victory over Sky Blue FC on June 28 and a 2-1 decision at Houston Dash on July 12, which had kept them firmly in first place in the league standings. Gilliland offered her explanation of why the team was unable to make it three straight in the clash with the Breakers.

“We diverted a little bit from what we normally do,” said the Red Stars’ first-round pick in the 2015 NWSL College Draft. “We’ve been a possession-oriented team, but this time we were hitting a lot more long balls than we normally do. We also need to credit Boston. They did a great job defending and basically took our style and used it against us. Then, just as we were finding our way a bit and scored, we let them get back into the game and couldn’t find a way to regain control after that.”

A former Kentucky star, Gilliland had received rave reviews from pundits for her dangerous trips up the wing from her left back spot in the wins over Sky Blue FC and Houston. The 22-year-old has started in nine and appeared in all of Chicago’s eleven fixtures in 2015, helping the club to an impressive 6-1-4 record.

“I’m finally really settling in and finding my niche,” she offered. “I’m a very attacking-style player and like to go forward. I think the team has realized that and caught on to my strengths, which has allowed them to find me in those wide spaces more often and get me into the final third. I’ve shined because my teammates have helped bring out the best of me.”

Head Coach Dames continues to face the challenge of reintegrating the World Cup stars into a squad that has done very well in their absence, rookie Sofia Huerta and second-year player Vanessa DiBernardo standing out with six goals and a league-leading five assists, respectively. While several internationals could see the field in Wednesday’s clash with Boston, U.S. star Chalupny will not be one of them, as she will be absent due to a commitment made prior to the game date being changed from July 15 to July 22.

While Chicago could still feature as many as seven World Cup participants, the Boston roster includes some standout talent as well – such as rookie McCaffrey, who has trained with the American senior squad and whose tally against the Red Stars brought her 2015 total to four. The Massachusetts native is joined on the attack by U.S. international Kristie Mewis and Kyah Simon, who scored twice in Australia’s run to the World Cup quarterfinals. Stars and Stripes goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is expected to start in goal.

Given the Breakers’ strong performance in the 1-1 tie with the Red Stars this past Saturday, Chicago Head Coach Dames knows his side needs to step up its own play if it’s to return to its winning ways against an opponent that is desperate to improve on its 3-6-3 record for a shot at reaching the playoffs.

“We need to make better choices in the attacking third, organize the box better, and keep our focus in the back,” said the man in charge of the NWSL leaders in concluding his remarks. “Boston’s goal against us basically came out of nothing and caught us flat-footed, which is a problem. And once they tied the game, we weren’t really able to recover and take charge again. Those are all areas in which we hope to see improvements. If we do, I believe we have every chance to be successful.”

The Chicago Red Stars look to defend their top spot in the table when they travel to take on Boston Breakers this coming Wednesday, July 22. The club’s next home match is a blockbuster clash with current NWSL champions FC Kansas City on August 1 that could feature a combined total of eight American World Cup winners. 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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