After their one-and-done showing in the playoffs last year, and some weak results earlier in the season, there have been some reasonable concerns over whether the Red Stars could get the job done down the stretch. Chicago’s comeback draw against Seattle in a crucial late-season match with huge postseason implications makes a compelling argument that they can.
The home side went down 2-0 in the opening 10 minutes of the game, first from a clean close-range finish by Manon Melis and then off a free kick from Lauren Barnes. The Reign continued to press their advantage early in the game and the Red Stars seemed in real danger of repeating their limp showing against Houston at the start of the season.
But the Red Stars managed to pull themselves together and get back into the game. The defense closed ranks, the midfield found their center, and Alyssa Naeher became a repaired brick wall in front of goal. Days after winning the league’s Save Of The Week award, she made an incredible juggling effort that may make her a back-to-back winner.
The Red Stars started their climb back in earnest just before the half-hour mark when Vanessa DiBernardo sent a corner kick to the far post and found the head of Sofia Huerta, who headed in to cut Seattle’s lead in half.
The rest of the first half and most of the second was an even contest, with both teams going at each other with the kind of bloodlust you only see in a playoff race. After more than 30 minutes of intense back-and-forth, the home side caught a lucky break when fullback Casey Short was tripped in the box and won a penalty. Christen Press took the spotkick and sent Haley Kopmeyer the wrong way, levelling the score with 10 minutes left.
The game remained open for the next 5-7 minutes or so before Chicago hunkered down for the draw. Seattle threw everything they had at Chicago’s admittedly-bendy backline but the defense and Naeher came up big. The whistle blew at 92 minutes to give Chicago an incredible come-from-behind draw and a crucial point in their quest for the playoffs.
The draw lifts the Red Stars into third place, one point ahead of Western New York and still five points ahead of Seattle. They travel to Kansas City on Wednesday and then meet the defending champions again at home next Sunday. Those two games could very well decide the Red Stars’ fate this season. Don’t change the channel yet.