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Chicago Red Stars

Chicago Survives Orlando’s Late Challenge, Morgan makes 2017 NWSL debut

Christen Press has four goals in two matches for Chicago this season. (Photo: Chicago Red Stars/Daniel Bartel)

It took Chicago Red Stars defender Casey Short less than one minute to change the complexion of Saturday evening’s 1-0 victory over the Orlando Pride in Florida. Seconds after entering the game in the 66th minute to relieve Sarah Gorden, making her first National Women’s Soccer League start, Short—the usual starter—initiated a counterattack off Pride forward Jasmyne Spencer’s shot off the post. As she blew through Orlando’s backline and readied to receive a through ball from NWSL assists leader Vanessa DiBernardo, Short drew a foul from Pride defender Toni Pressley inside the penalty box.

U.S. Women’s National Team forward Christen Press easily buried the ensuing shot—the third one Orlando’s given up in two games—inside the left post for the game winner and her fifth goal of the season. The score seemed to leave Orlando—which controlled possession for 62 percent of the contest—quite deflated. Though they did almost tie the game in stoppage time when goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe got on the end of Camila’s corner kick in the 91st minute. Red Stars midfielder Danielle Colaprico headed the ball off the goal line but the clearance landed in front of U.S. Women’s National team defender and Orlando captain Ali Krieger, whose left-footed attempt ricocheted off the crossbar.

It was the most animated the Pride had been since an energetic first half, during which they dominated play; the second half was a role reversal as Chicago applied more consistent pressure. Orlando fired 20 shots to Chicago’s 16, but only four were on target—and the majority were taken from distance. Fitting that Press scored the go-ahead goal Saturday as she was responsible for half the Red Stars’ shots and had Orlando’s backline scrambling to cover her.

With Saturday’s victory, the Red Stars (7-3-2) moved within one point of the North Carolina Courage atop the league standings. The defeat was Orlando’s (4-5-3) second consecutive shutout loss at home; the Pride currently sit in sixth place in the race to playoffs.

Alex Morgan, who had been sidelined with a hamstring injury since returning from playing abroad, made her 2017 NWSL debut in the 65th minute. She and Brazilian superstar Marta—who as usual showed off her soccer savvy with several creative setups—connected on a dangerous scoring opportunity shortly thereafter but were unable to capitalize.

Saturday was only the third-ever meeting between the Red Stars and Pride, with the former winning all three. The teams will play again in Chicago on July 22 in a 3:30 p.m. game scheduled to be televised by Lifetime.

 

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