Red Stars 3 Colaprico 27’, Mautz 54’, DiBernardo 59’
North Carolina 2 Erceg 45+4’, Debinha 74’
When the Red Stars lost two of their first three games of the season and found themselves lingering near the bottom of the table, some fans (including yours truly) were worried. We didn’t exactly hit the panic button, but a few of us were casting furtive glances in the panic button’s general direction. Was this just a fluke? A bad start to the season? Or was this the overture of what was going to be a very bad campaign?
After seven games, it looks like increasingly like the former. In a game that was perhaps a little too close to comfort, the Red Stars fended off league leaders North Carolina to secure a 3-2 victory, scoring back-to-back wins over the Courage and going unbeaten in four games to move within striking distance of the top of the NWSL table.
Today’s game— held on a gorgeous early summer Saturday and with more than a few doggos in attendance— started out in much the same manner as last week, with plenty of end-to-end action but with few real chances. And like last week, the Red Stars made the breakthrough, opening the scoring just before the half-hour mark. This time, it was Dani Colaprico finishing off some lightning-quick buildup play to knock the ball in at the far post.
The rest of the first half was physical, to put it lightly. North Carolina’s Yuri Kawammura was forced off due to injury minutes after the opening goal, with Debinha coming in to replace her. Julie Ertz also went down around the same time and stayed down for several minutes. She ultimately did come back into the game, but things looked dicey for a bit.
The injuries precipitated a lengthy stoppage time period to close out the first half. Plenty of time for former Red Stars player Abby Erceg to score the equalizer.
That ended up being the last play of the half. When the teams came out for Act II, the Red Stars were het up and looking to take back control.
Which they did early on, thanks to a goal off a corner from Alyssa Mautz.
Chicago padded out their lead just five minutes later with this incredible strike from Vanessa DiBernardo.
The Red Stars pushed for a fourth to wrap it up, but with North Carolina proving more resilient than they expected, they soon switched gears and sough to slow things down and run out the clock. This necessitated some last-ditch defending, including this goal-line clearance from Colaprico.
Then in the 74th minute, Debinha changed the calculus of the game.
From that point on the Red Stars were in siege mode, as the Courage hurled themselves forward in an attempt to knock down their defenses and grab an equalizer. And they came close, on a few occasions. The last 15-20 minutes were as grueling as anything we’ve seen this season so far.
But Chicago did it. They held on against a sustained assault from the league leaders and tallied their second win in a row.
The Red Stars are now in second place on 13 points, just two behind North Carolina with a game in hand. There’s still plenty of soccer left to play, obviously, but Chicago went from bottom-feeders to title challengers in a month. That’s an incredible turnaround. Who knows what June will bring.
CRS are back in action next Sunday at home again against Seattle. They’re off the weekend after for the international break and then back on the clock on the 17th against Washington.