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Pricked Fingers: Portland 2, Red Stars 1, recap

The Red Stars start strong but fade away as they suffer their second loss of the season

Portland's Allie Long wheels away in triumph
Portland's Allie Long wheels away in triumph

Despite the odd stumble here and there, the Red Stars have availed themselves well over the summer. The highlight of their playoff run was a six-game unbeaten streak they’ve been nursing since the Women’s World Cup. That streak is now over.

In what was a difficult weekend for Chicago teams in the Rose City, the Red Stars suffered their second defeat of the season in a 2-1 loss to the Portland Thorns.

The Red Stars looked to take control of an otherwise even contest just before the half-hour mark. Chicago midfielder Alyssa Mautz launched an attack down the right flank and sent in a cross; the ball deflected off a Portland defender and somehow looped into the back of the net, giving the Red Stars a 1-0 lead.

That lead lasted all of eight minutes. Following a corner kick, the ball dropped inside the six yard box and, due to a miscommunication, keeper Karina LeBlanc and defender Abby Erceg both tried to pounce on it. They clattered into each other and, in the ensuing chaos, Allie Long swooped in to capitalize on a dreadful mistake.

The Thorns had wind in their sails and used it to push Chicago to the wall through the second half. Their pressure finally paid off in the 69th minute when Long hit a driving shot from outside the box that found the far corner of the net. The Red Stars tried to get back into the game but, as we’ve seen too often this summer, their desperation led them to hurl themselves bodily upon the shore. The Thorns held on, securing all three points and staying firmly in the playoff hunt with only a handful of games to go.

Chicago won’t have a lot of time to flush tonight’s loss out of their system. The Red Stars are back at it on Wednesday night when they host Sky Blue FC. (We will not be livetweeting the game due to the Fire’s USOC semifinal in Philly.) They’ll have to play on short rest again next Sunday when they host Washington. For the Red Stars, this 3-game week is corresponding with a sudden loss of form. The next week or two will go likely show, one way or another, whether the Red Stars deserve to contend for the NWSL title.