Chicago Red Stars X Ertz 64’
FC Kansas City X Leroux 23’, Bowen 29’, Kelly 80’
After having one of the strongest home records in the league, the Chicago Red Stars have no lost three home games in a row. Their 3-1 loss against FC Kansas City tonight at Toyota Park has now put Chicago’s playoff hopes in serious jeopardy, with just five games left in the regular season to put things right.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the lineup tonight. We ended up with the default back line restored (including Casey Short restored as a fullback, as Goddess intended), Vanessa DiBernardo scratched late and Taylor Comeau sent in her place, and Yuki Nagasato making her first start for Chicago. Which isn’t bad, all things considered. (DiBern’s injury notwithstanding.)
I have to give the Red Stars credit this week. They came out swinging. The first 15 minutes saw sustained pressure from the home side and more than a few promising chances from their forward line. Chicago easily could’ve been up 1-0 by the 20th minute. But they looked, for a time, like they were done making excuses. They’d keep the heat cranked up and eventually they’d be rewarded for their sense of adventure.
Which made Sydney Leroux’s opening goal in the 23rd minute so goddamn frustrating.
The goal itself wasn’t what bothered me. It’s that the Red Stars seemed so slow and disorganized in response. Like they were too freaked out to just give up entirely but not so freaked out to impose themselves on the game after going behind.
And then six minutes after Leroux’s goal, Alyssa Naeher flies a white flag and lets Katie Bowen walk in the second goal.
Moments later a bad bounce nearly gave Kansas City their third goal.
By this point it sure looked like the game was over. FCKC slipped into Game Management mode and the Red Stars clearly decided the writing was on the wall. They didn’t quit, per se, but there seemed to be a tacit acknowledgement that they didn’t quite have enough gas in the tank to mount a comeback.
Chicago nearly caught a break right before halftime when Casey Short got dinged in the face by Shea Groom in the box and won a penalty. But Press, as is her right as captain, stepped up to take it. You can guess what happened from there.
Chicago went into the tunnel at halftime down 2-0 and sapped of all morale. Their faces seemed to suggest they’d be fine with calling the game right then. (I probably would’ve been too, to be honest.)
The Red Stars came out for the second half with the same team but reshuffled. Press moved back to the midfield on the left side of the diamond. Ertz was moved up to the #10 role. Nagasato and Huerta made up the strike partnership. I guess anything was worth a shot at this point.
Chicago started the second half much like the first— applying pressure, turning the screw, dominating possession. And much like the second half, none of it was rewarded with a goal.
UNTIL the 64th minute, when Greatest Living American Julie Ertz was played through on goal and slotted the ball past Nicole Barnhart.
Credit due here to Nagasato, who was critical in the build-up to this play.
So now the Red Stars were back in it. All they had to do was find a goal in the next half hour or so— without conceding another one.
They almost did just that in the 73rd minute when Maegan Kelly— just subbed on moments earlier— was allowed to run in behind the back line and get in alone on goal. Her shot beat the keeper but couldn’t stay on the right side of the post.
You’d think this would’ve gotten the Red Stars to wake up a bit and take their defensive duties more seriously. You would be mistaken. Maegan Kelly didn’t have to wait very long for her next chance, and her chip over Naeher from outside the box nestled peacefully in the back of the net.
The Red Stars made two quickfire substitutions— Summer Green and Lauren Kaskie on for Sam Johnson and Taylor Comeau— in an act of desperation. But down 3-1 with the minutes slipping away in regulation, everyone knew what the deal was.
Chicago didn’t put up too much of a fight in the waning moments. The whistle blew and three straight home losses were confirmed.
The Red Stars (8W 5D 6L, 29pts, 3rd place) will try to start salvaging their season next Saturday on the road against the Washington Spirit.