The Chicago Red Stars ground out a trademark scrappy 1-0 win on the road to stop the rot and hopefully get back on winning terms before the Olympic break.
A month ago the Red Stars were top of the NWSL table. A short run of poor results, featuring a 3-game losing streak, dropped them into a tie for fourth place heading into their must-win trip to Orlando.
On top of the midseason funk, CRS landed in Orlando without three of their biggest stars. Star striker Christen Press, defender Julie Johnston, and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher were all away on USWNT duty. Heading into the game, the consensus was that the squad would either thrive under the pressure— Sofia Huerta in particular seems to thrive when she’s not in Press’ shadow— or they would wilt like imported flowers in the Floridian humidity.
Thankfully, it was the former. Chicago’s backline, which has been uncharacteristically shaky this season, held it together through 90 minutes. When they came up short, Michele Dalton delivered the goods to earn her first clean sheet of the season.
The one goal of the game came in the 22nd minute. Huerta launched a gorgeous cross into the box from the right-hand side and found midfielder Taylor Comeau, who headed home inside the near post.
The Red Stars had plenty of opportunity to increase their lead, including a heart-stopping miss by Vanessa DiBernardo that struck wood and bounced away.
Cara Walls had another near miss right before the hour mark in the second half. Soon after, Orlando started gathering momentum and had some solid chances of their own. The Red Stars held on, but it was touch-and-go for a while for the visitors.
A lightning storm forced a weather delay late in the second half that would last more than an hour, leading both teams to take the competition to… a different arena.
The weather break ended up being exactly what the visitors needed. The squad came back out refreshed and ready to see the game out. They locked Orlando out of the game and held on through the remaining minutes to secure a much-needed 1-0 win. The victory gave them sole possession of fourth place in the league standings, four points behind Western New York in third and five points (with a game in hand) behind Portland at the top.
The Red Stars have two more games to close out the month, hosting Houston this Saturday and then Kansas City a week later. After that, the team gets a month-long furlough for the Olympics, with their first game back coming on August 27th away at Sky Blue and their first home game back on September 4th against Seattle.