A last-minute goal by Christen Press cancelled out Rose Lavelle’s stunner from earlier in the second half, earning the Chicago Red Stars (2-2-1, 7 pts) a point at home after drawing the Boston Breakers (2-2-1, 7 pts.), 1-1.
Lavelle’s goal came in the 69th minute and was scored on a play that started with the recent University of Wisconsin graduate dispossessing Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz of the ball. Lavelle then moved the ball down the center of the field, as she had done a number of times prior in the match, but this time she laid it off to Midge Purce, who was making a run of her own down the left flank. Purce took a couple of touches on the ball, trying to get in better position, before taking a shot, but her shot deflected off Katie Naughton. The deflection bounced right to Rose Lavelle, who one-touched the ball through traffic and past Alyssa Naeher.
It looked as though Boston was on their way to securing three points on the road, but Chicago head coach Rory Dames made a tactical substitution just five minutes after going down a goal, replacing defender Sam Johnson for forward Jen Hoy. With more numbers in the attack, Chicago began fighting for an equalizer.
In one of the most unusual plays in NWSL history, Chicago was awarded an indirect free kick in the box after Breakers netminder Abby Smith collected a bobbled shot that had bounced off of defender Allysha Chapman’s legs. Since the ball had last touched a Breaker, it was ruled a back pass, meaning Smith could only play it with her feet, not her hands. All 11 of Boston’s players built a wall that stretched the length of the goal before Danielle Colaprico put the ball in play for Press. Press’s shot deflected off of Natasha Dowie, and although the Red Stars argued for a handball, the referee let the game play on without making the call.
The Red Stars managed to fight their way onto the board in the 89th minute when Sofia Huerta sent in a cross from the right side of the field, and Press ducked low to get her head on the ball, bouncing it past Breaker goalkeeper Abby Smith. The goal is Press’s first of 2017, despite leading the league in shots so far this season.
Press was nearly the hero of the game when a long ball was sent over the field and to Ertz, who flicked the ball with her head right to Press. The forward moved into position and fired off a well-placed shot, but Smith made the save to deny Press the game winner. The final whistle blew just seconds later with the score level.
Had Chicago managed to come back and score a literal last-second game winner, it would have been a major disappointment to the Breakers, who were arguably the better team in the first half. Lavelle’s speed on the ball saw her break free from Chicago’s defense multiple times in the first half, but her tendency to hold onto the ball rather than playing it off wide resulted in missed opportunities for the Breakers.
However, it was somewhat a tale of two halves because, although Boston did get on the board in the second 45 minutes, Chicago outplayed the Breakers in the second half. Vanessa DiBernardo came out from the locker room and immediately blasted a shot at Abby Smith, who had to make a big save to prevent Boston from taking the lead. Dames’ decision to switch to a three-back to add numbers to the attack also paid off, as a tired Boston defense seemed more disorganized late in the match.
If either team had won, they would have secured the No. 2 spot in the NWSL standings, but the draw sees Boston in fourth, just one spot higher than the Red Stars thanks to goal differential. Next week the Breakers return home to host the Portland Thorns on Friday, May 19, while Chicago hits the road to take on the No. 1 North Carolina Courage on Sunday, May 21.
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