There were plenty of moments when I thought Chicago were going to lose this game. Their wobbliness after being forced onto the back foot in the first half. Their relentless siege in the second half that bore no fruit. All this had the making for a Boston shocker— say, a stoppage time winner.
But if it’s one thing the Red Stars know how to do, it’s defend. For all that the attack sometimes fails to click, their back line knows what they’re doing. That’s what makes this goalless draw feel like something earned, rather than a missed opportunity.
To an extent.
Soon after the stream started the chyron listed “7-3-2” under the Red Stars.
Prior to tonight's #BOSvCHI match, @jordangeli paid tribute to her former @BostonBreakers coach Tony DiCicco. pic.twitter.com/wmYvqZgk2X— NWSL (@NWSL) July 7, 2017
It took me a few minutes to realize they were talking about the team’s record and not the formation they were playing. I don’t know what it says about me or this team that I could (mistakenly) think Chicago was going to play 7 in the back and be like, “yup, that sounds like something Rory Dames might do.”
But in reality, the only scandal with the lineup with Dani Colaprico on the bench and Christen Press dropping deep to play as a #10. Worth an eyebrow raise, but far less controversial than whatever I was thinking.
The start of the game was, in a shocking turn of events, slow. Boston would build an attack and Chicago would swat it down by the time they got near the box. Lather, rinse, repeat. For an entire half.
I have to give credit to Boston here for coming out with a plan and doing a lot to execute it effectively. They spent the opening minutes switching up the point of attack and trying to catch Chicago out; it didn’t quite work out, but that could’ve been more down to luck than anything else. (Of course, the Red Stars are also accustomed to keeping their sh*t locked tight when they need to.)
At the other end, Chicago managed to keep Boston occupied, even though legitimate chances were few. As Stephanie Yang (who was in attendance) noted, “it's so stark how much it takes to contain Christen Press.”
Beyond that, there wasn’t much to talk about. Chicago defended their box, Press couldn’t set up a goal, and both teams went into the locker rooms without a scoreline to show for it.
The second half started with a bit of a jolt. Less than two minutes in, Sofia Huerta hit a free header from the middle of the box. I actually thought it went in at first; in my head it went from Huerta hitting it to the ball nestled against the back of the net. But no, it went over the bar and then rested against the outside netting.
47' Immediately go on the attack as Gilliland finds the head of Huerta. #BOSvCHI 0-0 pic.twitter.com/p8rhT3zCBc— Chicago Red Stars (@chicagoredstars) July 8, 2017
But to their credit, that near-miss woke up the Red Stars. Press and the front two laid siege to Boston’s back line in the opening minutes. A better bounce here or there and they might’ve gotten the goal. Same for Press’ 20 yard shot in the 50th minute— just a bit less height and it would’ve stayed under the crossbar.
It didn’t take long for Boston to shake themselves out of their reverie. The Breakers slowly started getting more of the ball and better looks at goal. They even came close to drawing first blood in the 58th minute, when Rosie White shot from outside the box and only barely missed.
Boston continued to build pressure past the hour mark. I know this because it was about that time when I pulled out my fidget spinner, because the anxiety was starting to kick in. (Write about soccer, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.)
Chicago were gifted a golden opportunity in the 71st minute; Megan Oyster couldn’t control a back pass and inadvertently laid it off to Sofia Huerta, who hit a shot from the top of the 18 but it rolled right to Sammy Jo Prudhomme.
A minute later, Press squeezed through on goal and hit a shot that ended up in the back of the net. While celebrating, the referee conferred with the AR, who ultimately ruled Press offside and disallowed the goal.
At this point the Red Stars were out for blood. An assault on the Breakers’ goal drew Prudhomme off her line and a headed clearance teed up Taylor Comeau, whose shot was cleared off the line. Casey Short nearly headed home off the resulting corner but couldn’t hit her target.
The siege was relentless. Press. Huerta. Short. Press. Press. Chicago wasn’t content for a draw. Not tonight.
88' - @chicagoredstars' Christen Press with another dangerous shot but @BostonBreakers' Sammy Jo Prudhomme is up to the task. #BOSvCHI pic.twitter.com/eGrCAHVk71— NWSL (@NWSL) July 8, 2017
Credit to Boston— they were resilient throughout the onslaught. Chicago’s attacked crashed upon the rocks. Of course, the Red Stars didn’t help their cause down the stretch.
Always Forever Offside: The Christen Press Story— James Bridget Gordon (@thaumatropia) July 8, 2017
By stoppage time the Red Stars had given up on build-up play and passing and just flung themselves bodily at Boston’s goal. Hoof the ball, rush Prudhomme, hope for the best. Once or twice it almost worked.
But nothing doing. Two halves of siege warfare by each team, ground into a stalemate. Chicago had to walk out of Beantown with a point.
The Chicago Red Stars (7W 3D 3L, 24pts, Tied-1st) conclude their road trip next Saturday in New Jersey when they take on Sky Blue.