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NWSL Friday: North Carolina, Chicago split points

North Carolina entered the locker room leading at halftime, but Chicago fought their way back in the second to earn a 1-1 in the final matchup of the season between these teams.

Chicago’s nearly month-long break between games showed in the first half. Their ball movement was sloppy and slow, and after a bright start in the first few minutes, they found themselves pinned back more often than not. Both keepers were called into action within the first fifteen minutes to push away dangerous corners that looked destined to sneak in at the far post.

The Courage were the first to get on the board. In the 22nd minute, Jess McDonald sent in a cross from the right flank that went over Lynn Williams to meet the head of Debinha as she raced into the box. Her forceful header, aimed downward, bounced up and over Alyssa Naeher.

The Courage continued to look the brighter of the two sides, although Chicago nearly had a chance to tie it up before halftime when Julie Ertz found herself facing an open net. However, she was unprepared to receive the ball and missed, and the play was called dead due to Morgan Brian, who sent Ertz the ball, being in an offside position.

It was a different story in the second half. The Red Stars took charge of the game from the whistle, finally growing into the game. In the 61st minute, Brian turned and fizzed a shot that met the near post, nearly tying the match. Just three minutes later, Chicago did just that. Vanessa DiBernardo sent in a beautiful ball with pinpoint accuracy, which was decisively headed in by Sam Kerr.

The goal galvanized both sides. Debinha sent a free kick just over the crossbar into the top netting, while Williams had a chance to win it after beating Naeher to a ball. However, fierce defense from Katie Naughton combined with a multitude of Red Stars in the box kept her from making a play until Naeher was back in position. The game was wide open as both sides threw everything they had into getting another goal, each team taking home a yellow card for their troubles. North Carolina possibly got away with a missed handball call on Abby Erceg late in the game, and they also had a goal called back after Williams fouled Naeher to get it in the net.

The Courage sorely missed the defensive presence of McCall Zerboni in the midfield, while the Red Stars could have used more attacking support from their outside backs to stretch the Courage defense. In the end, both teams probably felt they should have come away with a win, but they had to settle for splitting points.

Chicago (7-4-8) stays in fifth place and travels to Seattle on Wednesday, while North Carolina (15-1-5) hosts Orlando on Saturday

GOAL SUMMARY

  1. North Carolina Courage (Debinha, 21′)
  2. Chicago Red Stars (Kerr, 64′)

– Chelsey Bush

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