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Chicago needs late winner from USWNT star despite dominant performance

By Gunnar Berndt

Boston, Mass. – The Chicago Red Stars defended their top spot in the NWSL table on Wednesday night, defeating hosts Boston Breakers 2-1 courtesy of a dramatic, late game-winner from second-half substitute Christen Press, who appeared in her first league match since winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup with the United States. Canadian international Melissa Tancredi had given Chicago the lead in the opening half, followed by an equalizer from Boston’s Australian star forward Kyah Simon.

Another highlight of the match was the return of American center back sensation and World Cup Golden Ball nominee Julie Johnston to the Red Stars starting lineup. The reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year put in a solid 90-minute shift that contributed to her side dominating play and outshooting the opposition 9-3, Boston’s U.S. international Alyssa Naeher shining in goal to keep her side in contention.

The Red Stars came out of the gates flying, as they had three close looks in the early stages. First Alyssa Mautz’s sixth-minute threaded ball to Vanessa DiBernardo led to a close-range attempt that was blocked by a well-positioned Naeher. Then Mautz picked out Sofia Huerta at the top of the box and the rookie cut to her right before sending a dangerous curler toward the right post that forced a diving save from the Breakers netminder. Finally, Huerta drove into the area on the left and centered to Tancredi, whose close-range redirect was denied by an excellent Naeher kick save.

World Cup winner Naeher would stun the Red Stars attack yet again in the 19th minute, as she produced another strong save at the right post to keep out the attempted finish by streaking forward Huerta, who had been released by NWSL assists leader DiBernardo.

The home side nearly punished their opponents for the missed opportunities halfway through the first period, Schoepfer’s right-footed blast from long range whistling just wide of the left upright. However, Chicago would be back on the attack just after the half-hour mark, Naeher making perhaps her best save of the night by rushing off her line for a point-blank block against Huerta, the through-ball this time having come from fellow rookie Danielle Colaprico.

The visitors finally found the net four-minutes from intermission. Wingback Arin Gilliland swung in a beautiful cross from the left that was redirected at the far post by Alyssa Mautz for a simple tap-in by Tancredi at the doorstep.

After a relatively uneventful opening to the second half, the Red Stars continued their dominance courtesy of a piece of brilliance from Press, who had entered the match just before the hour mark and took a mere five minutes to test Naeher with a wicked right-footed blast from long range. The star forward displayed outstanding footwork on the play, cutting around a defender and to her right before firing off a rocket that forced her U.S. teammate to leave her feet for a spectacular fingertip save over the bar.

The Breakers scored the proverbial goal out of nowhere in the 69th minute, Simon rising above her defender at the far post to nod home a quality Stephanie McCaffrey cross from the right flank. Press could have reclaimed the lead for Chicago seven minutes from full time, but her near-post redirect following Jen Hoy’s excellent work and centering ball from the left whizzed just wide of the frame.

Hosts Boston came within inches of turning the game on its head moments later, Kristie Mewis hitting an ambitious free-kick from well outside the box that seemed to defy physics as it knuckled and changed direction twice before smashing off the left upright. The Red Stars’ Press subsequently had a chance to give her side the advantage, as she drove into the box on the left before cutting to her right and firing a dangerous shot across goal and past the post for a near miss.

Justice would be served when the 26-year-old California native finally shook the net in the 90th minute to give her team a well-deserved 2-1 win and all three points. Samantha Johnson’s pinpoint accurate long pass to the feet of Huerta allowed the 22-year-old to pick up her head for a through ball to substitute Jen Hoy, whose layoff was side-footed inside the right post by Press for a clinical finish.

If would be the game’s final noteworthy action, as the Red Stars ran out the clock and held on for a much-celebrated victory over their six-year rivals.

Head Coach Rory Dames’ squad looks to defend its spot atop the table when it travels to take on third-place Washington Spirit this coming Saturday, July 25. The Red Stars’ next home match is a blockbuster clash with defending NWSL champions FC Kansas City that could feature a combined total of eight World Cup winners. Single-game and season tickets for the 2015 campaign may be purchased by calling 773-698-6001 or by visiting www.chicagoredstars.com.

Chicago Red Stars at Boston Breakers 2-1
Venue: Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium, Boston, MA
Scheduled kickoff time: 6 p.m. CT

Red Stars starting lineup:
Dalton, Johnson, Lomnicki, Johnston, Gilliland, Quon, Colaprico, DiBernardo, Mautz, Tancredi, Huerta

Boston Breakers starting lineup:
Naeher, Lazo, King, Kallman, Pathman, Barczuk, Schoepfer, Evans, Mewis, Simon, McCaffrey

Goals: Tancredi CRS 41’ (Mautz) – Simon BOS 69’ (McCaffrey) – Press CRS 90’ (Hoy)

Cautions/Ejections: None

Red Stars substitutions:
Hemmings in for Lomnicki 56’
Press in for Tancredi 59’
Hoy in for Mautz 80’

Boston Breakers substitutions:
Rafinha for Evans 62’
Bia in for Schoepfer 62’
Marlborough in for Lazo 80’

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