The Chicago Red Stars improved 4-0-0 with a 2-1 win Friday over the New York Fury. The Red Stars are currently unbeaten, though they have yet to face half of the teams in this year’s WPSL Elite League.
Red Stars head coach Rory Dames said his team anticipated a highly competitive game going into Friday.
“New York’s a good team. Paul [Riley]’s a good coach. They have a lot of players back from the team that lost in the [WPS] championship last year,” Dames said.
The promise of a tough opponent was met, as the first five minutes of the game saw quick, aggressive play and several offensive opportunities for both sides. A pass from the Red Stars’ Lauren Fowlkes resulted in a shot over the crossbar in the 2nd minute and strong pressure from New York saw the Red Stars make early use of goalkeeper Jamie Forbes to move the ball.
“We knew it was going to be a rough game coming in,” Red Stars starter Alyssa Mautz said. “So we definitely knew we had to come out and play really hard and get the first five minutes under us. I know we were a little shaky at first, and then we finally got a groove and started passing better.”
In the 8th minute of the game, Red Stars captain Lori Chalupny stole the ball from New York for a pass to forward Michele Weissenhofer, who took on the Fury defense for a low, hard shot saved by Fury goalkeeper Michelle Betos. The Fury responded in the same minute with a free kick directly on goal saved by Forbes.
The first Red Stars goal came in minute 26, when a crossed ball from Weissenhofer found the head of Lauren Fowlkes and then the foot of Mautz, advancing on the far side post.
“Michele got in behind, and took the Fury down to the line,” Mautz said. “And that was one of our main goals coming in, taking the girls on out wide and getting a cross in. I’d run to the far post to slide it in. I guess I just got a foot on it.”
The Fury’s best chance to score in the half came in minute 34, when Estelle Johnson got off a long cross for a close-range header to Forbes.
A flurry of nearly missed chances for a second Red Stars goal marked the final minutes of the first half. After one shot rebounded off of Betos, the ball was saved off of the goal line by a lunging Nikki Krzysik. The Red Stars immediately followed up with a shot that went wide of the goal to end the half.
The Red Stars increased the intensity of their efforts in the second half. Mautz nearly scored again several times, with a sliding shot just wide of the goal in minute 49, and a backwards header just off goal in 67th minute.
The second goal of the contest followed in the 69th minute. An unassisted Weissenhofer beat several Fury players for a low shot into the corner past Betos.
A frustrated New York side was unable to get many scoring chances in the half. Fury defender Kia McNeill had several long crosses that landed in range of the Red Stars’ goal, but these did not result in shots.
Then, in the 83rd minute, strong pressure from the Fury led to a Red Stars defensive error near the goal, and Fury forward Claire Zimmeck capitalized with a shot into the right-hand corner. Both teams were energized by the late tally, and the final minutes were fiercely fought, ending with a Fury shot into Forbes’ hands in stoppage time.
After the game, Dames praised his team’s offensive successes.
“I thought we looked a little sharper today in the final third than we have the previous three game,” he said. “Our movement was a little better. We created multiple chances in the first half. We were really able to get out in the game and get ahold of the game.”
Weissenhofer says the team is still in the early stages of development after beginning play somewhat later than other WPSL Elite teams.
“I think we’re continuing to gain confidence and getting to know each other,” she said. “Because this was really only our fourth game, and we played South Bend [FC Indiana] twice. Still, this is the beginning of our season. We’re still getting used to each other and building confidence.”
Dames reports the unblemished record, his team lacks a degree of fitness and needs to work on offensive finesse.
“We had two balls from a yard away that we missed,” he said. “We need to be better with our mentality to get up there and put those chances away and put the game away a lot quicker. And our fitness level is still not perfect. We’re at maybe at 60 minutes. We still have a ways to go to go the last 30 minutes. But I do think when we have everybody here and we get our fitness level up that we’ll be able to compete with anybody in the league.”
The Red Stars will play ASA Chesapeake Charge on Sunday at North Central College in Naperville, IL. With two games in 48 hours over this weekend, fans can expect Sunday’s game to feature several faces new in the Red Stars lineup.
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