Chicago Can Seal a Playoff Spot With Saturday Win
Lisle, IL – The Red Stars knew they needed a win to remain in the playoff hunt and did just that with a solid 2-0 victory over visiting Boston Breakers tonight. In a great team effort, goals were scored by Alyssa Mautz from Julie Johnston in the 30th minute and Melissa Tancredi from Taryn Hemmings in the 71st minute. Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc earned her 5th shutout of the season. The Red Stars control their playoff destiny and are in with a win in their final regular season finale taking place at home on Saturday against WNY Flash.
“It’s a credit to the players for their ability to push through at this time of year,“ said Red Stars Head Coach Rory Dames.
The Red Stars came out early on the attack and forward Tancredi nearly put the Red Stars up in the 14th minute with a solo effort blast of a shot that ricocheted off the bottom of the crossbar. Fellow forward Christen Press got a header on the rebound, but Boston keeper Alyssa Naeher, who earned NWSL Player of the Week honors last week, was there to grab it.
Boston had one of their best looks of the first half in the 25th minute, when Lianne Sanderson found herself just enough space in the box to break past the Red Stars defense and get a shot from close range. Luckily for Chicago, her shot was off-target and caused no danger for them.
It was a team effort that put the Red Stars on the board first in the 30th minute. Defender Hemmings played a ball forward to Press, who took a simple touch and blasted a shot from 25 yards. The Boston keeper had to leap to send the ball over the crossbar, giving the Red Stars a corner kick. Midfielder Jackie Santacaterina won the corner with a header and Johnston saved the ball from crossing the endline by heading it back across the face of goal. Mautz was there to head it in and give the Red Stars the first tally of the match and an important halftime lead.
Boston started the second half with the upper hand as they controlled much of the possession of the first 10 minutes and had several dangerous opportunities. The Red Stars settled back in and play went end-to-end for the next 10 including a massive shot from 35 yards by Boston defender Bianca D’Agostino in the 63rd minute that LeBlanc had to come up with a huge save on. Immediately after, Red Stars midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo slipped a low shot through two Boston defenders from the edge of the 18-yard box that went just barely wide of net.
Boston continued to control much of the pace of the second half, but the Red Stars came up big when they needed to off another dangerous corner in the 82nd minute. Unsung hero Jackie Santacaterina valiantly won the header out of the air and placed it perfectly towards goal. Hemmings was standing on the line and tapped it to Tancredi who had an easy tally to put the Red Stars on top 2-0.
In the third and final minute of stoppage time, Press won a breakaway and the Red Stars were in a 3v2 with a Boston defender and Naeher. Press pulled both the defender and goalkeeper towards her and laid off a perfect pass to second-half substitute Adriana Leon who had an open look at goal. Unfortunately she got tripped up as she went to play the ball, but the goal wasn’t needed as the Red Stars cruised in with a 2-0 win.
“At this point it’s mentality and will,” said Santacaterina of the team’s many injuries and fight for the playoffs. “We’ve gotten too far to throw in the towel now so we just have to push ourselves through it.”
With the victory the Red Stars have stepped up into the coveted 4th and final playoff spot, with just one regular season game remaining. They are currently 2 points behind 3rd place Washington Spirit and 1 point above Portland Thorns FC. A win in their final match on Saturday against WNY Flash will secure them at least 4th position for playoffs and a trip to either Seattle or Kansas City, who hold the #1 and #2 slots, respectively.
The Red Stars end the regular season the way they started, by meeting WNY Flash at home on Saturday, August 16 at 7 p.m. CT. WNY Flash was knocked out of playoff contention with a 3-2 loss at home to Sky Blue FC. The evening will mark ‘Fan Appreciation Night’ with tons of giveaways and prizes. The game is at Village of Lisle – Benedictine University Sports Complex. To get tickets, visit chicagoredstars.com/tickets/ or call 773-697-8699.