Thorns FC bags come-from-behind win behind Long brace
By Gunnar Berndt
Portland, Ore. – The Chicago Red Stars had their six-game unbeaten streak in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) play snapped by Portland Thorns FC on Sunday night, the home side bagging all three points courtesy of goals by U.S. international Allie Long on either side of the break. Alyssa Mautz had given Chicago the lead in the first half, but it wasn’t enough for Head Coach Rory Dames’ squad, as Portland earned an all-important third straight win in its desperate attempt to reach the postseason.
After a fiercely contested opening quarter hour, the visiting Red Stars nearly got on the board when Melissa Tancredi pounced on a mishit backpass by defender Emily Menges and tried to lob goalkeeper Michelle Betos, only to see the ball sail over the frame. Tancredi had another promising look in the 22nd minute, her excellent snap-header on Vanessa DiBernardo’s cross in from the left forcing a diving save from Betos.
Chicago finally did find the net on a bizarre play just before the half-hour mark, Mautz sprinting up the right wing and producing a shot disguised as a cross that took the opposition goalkeeper by surprise for the day’s first goal. Moments later, red-hot striker Christen Press could have doubled her side’s advantage, as she found herself one-on-one with the onrushing Betos and lifted the ball over the 27-year-old shot-stopper, only to see it cleared by defender Kathryn Williamson before it could cross the line.
Press came even closer to bagging her ninth tally in just seven appearances this season when she ran on to a 36th-minute long ball over the top by Red Stars captain Lori Chalupny and hit a beautiful dipping volley from the edge of the box that bounced off the left upright for an agonizingly close look.
Things got worse for Chicago in the 38th minute, as Tobin Heath whipped in a cross from the left that was intercepted by New Zealand international Abby Erceg, who looked comfortably en route to clearing until she was brought down by her own sliding netminder, Karina LeBlanc. The freak play saw the ball trickle right to the feat of Long, who had the easiest of times tapping it into the open net.
Thorns FC could have grabbed a second four minutes after intermission, Heath being released on a breakaway down the center before being forced wide and picking out Canada legend Christine Sinclair, whose powerful blast whistled narrowly wide of the frame. Sinclair was involved in another dangerous opportunity in the 66th minute, as she found herself with room on the left flank and sent a dangerous centering ball into the box that was begging to be finished but instead evaded everyone in its vicinity.
The home side finally had its breakthrough three minutes later, the Chicago defense failing to pressure Long on the edge of the penalty area and being dealt the punishment in the form of a low drive inside the left upright that had goalkeeper LeBlanc diving in vain.
Faced with a well-organized Thorns FC squad in the waning moments, the Red Stars would create two last opportunities to escape Providence Park with a point. First, DiBernardo’s free-kick from the left saw the ball fall to the feet of outside back Taryn Hemmings, whose hard shot forced a strong save from Betos. Then Chalupny found Press, who cut to her right and blasted past a defender before sending a right-footed rocket on frame the was tipped over in spectacular fashion by the Portland goalkeeper.
The Chicago Red Stars look to get back on track when they take on visiting Sky Blue FC on Wednesday, August 12, followed by another home match against leading NWSL goal-scorer Crystal Dunn and fellow title contenders Washington Spirit on Sunday, August 16. Single-game and season tickets for the 2015 Red Stars campaign may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-698-6001.
Chicago Red Stars at Portland Thorns FC 1-2
Venue: Providence Park, Portland, OR
Scheduled kickoff time: 8:30 p.m. CT
Red Stars starting lineup:
LeBlanc, Gilliland, Erceg, Johnston, Hemmings, Chalupny, Colaprico, DiBernardo, Mautz, Press, Tancredi
Portland starting lineup:
Betos, Polkinghorne, Williamson, Menges, Zerboni, Farrelly, Kyle, Heath, Long, Taylor, Sinclair
Mautz CRS 29’
Long PTFC 38’
Long PTFC 69’ (Farrelly)
Red Stars substitutions:
Huerta in for Tancredi 65’
Quon in for Colaprico 71’
Hoy in for Mautz 74’
Sanderson in for Taylor 60’
Van Hollebeke in for Williamson 85’