For all the hard work they’ve done during and after the World Cup to remain undefeated, there’s a niggling problem with this Red Stars squad. Saturday night, that problem was plain for all to see.
For the second time in four post-WWC games, Chicago failed to protect a slender lead and paid the price for it. Two beautiful goals from Christen Press couldn’t get her team over the hump as the Red Stars drew 2-2 at home against the defending champions FC Kansas City.
In front of yet another sell-out crowd at Benedictine University, the Red Stars badly needed all three points to keep pace with Seattle (who beat Boston 3-1 earlier in the day) near the top of the NWSL table. The home side got off to a good start in the 12th minute; Christen Press collected a through-ball from Lori Chalupny, got around an onrushing Katelyn Rowland, and tucked it home into an empty net. The Red Stars had a solid run of play in the middle of the first half but couldn’t fend off KC forever. Amy LePeilbet ultimately equalized in the 36th minute from a corner kick, and both teams went into the tunnel with a goal apiece.
After a shaky opening to the second half, Chicago started to find their way into the game and work on building some momentum. It finally paid off in the 75th minute thanks once again to Christen Press; she made some quick feints and turns to fool her defender before hitting a high curling shot past Rowland and into the upper 90, giving the Red Stars another slender lead.
By then, it was clear the home side were running out of gas and were content to try and protect their one goal lead. But as has been the case too often in the latter half of the season, the Red Stars couldn’t pull it off. In the dying minutes of the game, substitute Sarah Hagen snuck into the box and, with Michele Dalton out of position, headed home for another equalizer. Chicago tried to find a late winner in stoppage time but resorted to speculative Route One football out of desperation. Press looked to have a promising run at goal very late but the referee blew for full time before anything could come of it.
With the result the Red Stars remain in second place in the NWSL standings, claiming 27 points, 3 points behind first place Seattle with a game in hand. Chicago will try to gain some ground next Sunday when they travel to Portland. That game will be one of the handful shown on Fox Sports.