Western New York knocked on the door all day, and the Red Stars allowed the visitors space in the middle of the field. But Chicago’s defense never broke and the Red Stars beat the Flash 1-0 on Thursday in Lisle, Ill. to keep fourth-place Western New York within catching distance for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Lori Chalupny scored on a rebound in the 58th minute for the game’s lone tally. The goal was Chalupny’s fourth of the season and stood in contrast to the momentum of the first half, which was distinctively in Western New York’s favor.
“Lori is a Top 5 player in the league regardless of her national team status,” Chicago coach Rory Dames said. “She does what she does and we are happy to have her.”
The loss snaps a nine-game unbeaten run for Western New York. It’s the Flash’s first loss since April 27, a 2-1 loss at home to the Breakers.
Carli Lloyd ripped a driven free kick from 20 yards out off the crossbar in the 7th minute to start a strong first half for Western New York. Lloyd pleaded her case for a penalty kick less than two minutes later after being taken down in the box in the 9th minute while trying to retrieve Abby Wambach’s cross.
Thus began a long, physical day for Lloyd, who was brought down in the box again in the 24th minute. Chicago defender Rachel Quon was shown a yellow card in the 14th minute for a late, high tackle on Lloyd.
Western New York dominated the midfield battle throughout the first half as the Red Stars allowed McCall Zerboni, Angela Salem and Lloyd freedom to dribble and pick out passes. Flash outside backs Katherine Reynolds and Alex Sahlen pushed forward without challenge as Chicago struggled to keep its shape.
But the Red Stars made it to halftime — as usual, an extended 20-minute break at Benedictine University due to the long walk to the locker rooms — without conceding and used the extra time to regroup.
Thirteen minutes into the second half, the Red Stars struck. Taryn Hemmings sent in a cross that found Inka Grings, whose header was saved by Flash goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, but the rebound fell right to Chalupny inside the 6-yard box for the tap-in.
Chalupny stayed active and caused a flurry of action in the 80th minute, but Chicago couldn’t find an insurance goal. Western New York’s efforts were thwarted by a compact Chicago back four that saw holding midfielder Leslie Osborne slide in as an extra defensive presence.
With the win, Chicago (4-6-3, 15 pts.) pulls within one point of fifth-place Boston. Western New York (6-3-4) remains stuck on 22 points ahead of a critical 3rd-vs.-4th matchup at FC Kansas City (7-4-3, 24 pts.) on Sunday.
— Adriana Leon made her debut for the Red Stars after being traded to Chicago officially on Sunday.
— 2,064 fans showed up on a hot, 1 p.m. local time July 4th holiday game. That isn’t the biggest Red Stars crowd this year, but the conditions make it the most impressive, given how awful Chicago has been at the gate.
— Hemmings ability and willingness to push forward from her center back position is underrated and is similar to the style of play Christie Rampone and Becky Sauerbrunn like. Hemmings has the ability to drift forward with Osborne covering in a defensive midfield role.
— The Red Stars wore red, white and blue for their Independence Day home game. Chicago donned an alternate red jersey with four red stars down the side, similar to those of the flag of Chicago (which the team wore as a primary kit in WPS).
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