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NWSL Tuesday: Red Stars clinch playoff berth, send Sky Blue to brink of winless season

The Chicago Red Stars locked up the final playoff spot with a 5-0 thrashing of winless Sky Blue FC on Tuesday night at Toyota Park. The makeup of a postponed game from July happened only two days after sky Blue were forced to play another makeup game in Washington. Alyssa Mautz scored the first two Red Stars goals which were later supplemented by Sam Kerr, Rosie White, and Michele Vasconcelos. The result eliminated Utah Royals FC from playoff contention. Sky Blue are now on the precipice of a winless season, unprecedented in the history of outdoor, Division I soccer in the United States.

The Red Stars were in charge of the match from start to finish. The first goal came at 14 minutes when Arin Gilliand sent a far-post cross that Mautz went up and headed in.

Sky Blue managed to hold at 1-0 for the rest of the half, thanks in part to some excellent work by defender Mandy Freeman plus a few offside flags that went against Kerr. But it took less than a minute into the second half for the Red Stars to double up. The final pass was Gilliland to Mautz on the far post again, this time after Vanessa DiBernardo helped Gilliland win her flank by participating in a give-and-go.

Kerr got on the scoresheet in the 64th minute. Brooke Elby spotted her about to break through the Sky Blue defense and lifted a long pass that Kerr headed off the hand of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and into the goal for her 15th goal of the season. That gives Kerr a three-goal lead on Lynn Williams in the Golden Boot race with one game to go for each, and also made her the first player with multiple 15-goal seasons.

The massacre was far from over. In the 80th minute, Gilliland sent in another definitive ball, this one headed down by Kerr to White who had an easy finish. And then in the final minute of stoppage time, Vasconcelos ran by the Sky Blue defense and scored her first professional goal.

The Red Stars (9-4-10, 37 pts) will finish the regular season Saturday afternoon in Utah. Their semifinal will be in either North Carolina or Seattle, the latter only in the event that the Reign beat the Thorns Friday and the Red Stars win in Utah. Sky Blue (0-17-6) finish with a home match against the Orlando Pride on Saturday when they will try to get a victory and avoid some very ominous history.

Goal Summary

  1. Chicago Red Stars (Alyssa Mautz 18’)
  2. Chicago Red Stars (Alyssa Mautz 46′)
  3. Chicago Red Stars (Sam Kerr 64′)
  4. Chicago Red Stars (Rosie White 80′)
  5. Chicago Red Stars (Michele Vasconcelos 97+’)

– Dan Lauletta

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