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Press Brace Leads Chicago to Another Victory Over Orlando

It may not have been the prettiest of matches, but Christen Press pounced on defensive errors for a brace, and the Chicago Red Stars went on to bag a 2-1 victory over the Orlando Pride despite head coach Rory Dames getting sent off at the half.

Due to a Sam Johnson concussion and an illness to Julie Ertz, Dames had to reconfigure his backline, moving Casey Short to center back, Arin Gilliland to left back, and Taylor Comeau to right back, giving Lauren Kaskie her first start in midfield.

Orlando started out on with their foot on the gas, dominating possession and keeping the Red Stars pinned in their defensive half for long periods. At first, it appeared that Dames may have tinkered too much with his defense, as they appeared out of sorts, and Short inadvertently headed the ball back in the 3rd minute, forcing goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to keep the ball from going in their own goal.

Marta and Alex Morgan combined for a few good sequences, and Steph Catley provided good service from the flank, but the first dangerous moment for either team came in the 11th minute when Sofia Huerta, closely marked by Toni Pressley, went for a diving header on a ball into the box. She wasn’t able to solidly connect, and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe easily collected.

Bledsoe was called into action again in the 21st minute when Jen Hoy launched a ball in front of Press. The keeper came out of her box and showed off her footwork, clearing the ball with enough time for her to scramble back into net.

Several minutes later, Press took advantage of the space between Ali Krieger and Pressley, hovering at Krieger’s shoulder until Danielle Colaprico launched a ball down the pitch. She took one touch to get a step on Krieger, juked around Bledsoe who rushed off her line, and had no problem sending the ball into an empty net.

Ten minutes later, Alex Morgan had a big chance to tie it up. Camila sent a perfectly placed ball into the box to Morgan, whose run took advantage of a disorganized Red Stars backline and got herself wide open. Morgan rose up to meet it, but Naeher was well positioned to save the point blank header.

Morgan nearly had another chance just before halftime when she pounced on an errant pass from Naeher, but the keeper was quick enough to clean up her mistake before Morgan could exploit the opportunity.

Orlando went into the locker room with the lion’s share of the possession and solid control of the midfield battle but nothing to show for it, while Chicago had struggled to build anything up but got on the board against the run of play.

Ertz came on after halftime, sending Colaprico to the bench, while Tom Sermanni attempted to allow Camila to get into the attack more by sending Kristen Edmonds in for Jasmyne Spencer. However, that move may have caused some confusion, as it often appeared there was no right back, and Monica was eventually sent on to fill the spot.

In the 52nd minute, it was Press again, after Krieger, seeking an interception, was unable to get a solid touch on the ball, and it landed at the feet of Sofia Huerta, who flicked it down the pitch. This time it was Pressley who was caught sleeping on Press, and although Bledsoe did better off her line this time, cutting Press’ angle down, she sent it home inside the far post.

Press thought she had a chance for the hat trick in the 65th minute when she received the ball on the left side with acres of open space. Krieger closed her down and forced her end line, where she sent it into the side netting.

The game was decidedly in Chicago’s favor in the second half, both on the scoreboard and on the pitch. Ertz helped settle the midfield and start claiming second balls, allowing the Red Stars to deny Marta and Morgan any time on the ball.

Rachel Hill came on for Chioma Ubogagu with ten minutes of regulation time to go and immediately created an opportunity. Orlando showed signs of life after the substitution, with Morgan running down a ball on the left wing and cutting inside, forcing Naeher to deflect the ball out at near post for a corner kick.

In the 3rd minute of stoppage time, Alanna Kennedy pulled one back for the Pride. Short headed a long ball back toward the goal, where it was brought down by Hill, who cut it back for Kennedy. The Australian launched a rocket into the far upper 90.

However, it was too little, too late for the Pride. Alyssa Mautz subbed on for Jen Hoy in the dying minutes to claim her 100th appearance for the Red Stars, and her team celebrated the milestone with a win to put them into first place.

The teams meet again after the international break in Orlando for their third matchup of the season.

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