With six Red Star players away on international duty during the previous week, Head Coach Rory Dames had his work cut out for him as he set his lineup to face the Houston Dash. The Red Star mindset was simple: “Win and you’re in.”
Four of the Red Stars international contingent started against Houston after playing a huge part for the United States during a series with New Zealand. Only Morgan Brian and Sofia Huerta were omitted from the starting lineup but both were available off the bench.
Christen Press got things going for Chicago early as she looked flex her goal scoring prowess again in NWSL. Press streaked down the left side of the pitch taking on numerous defenders before unleashing a shot that just went wide of the Dash goal.
Moments later another quality scoring opportunity for Chicago as defender Casey Short crossed in a beautiful ball to Jen Hoy.
Hoy would put her shot directly at Jane Campbell and the attempt was saved, but the Dash keeper gave up a rebound that landed fortuitously back to Hoy who buried the opportunity and gave Chicago a 1-0 lead.
Casey Short decided she was through assisting on scoring chances and decided she wanted to get into the action in the 20th minute as the Red Stars added another goal off a set-piece opportunity. Midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo sent in a beautiful out-swinger that Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell couldn’t quite catch allowing Casey Short a brilliant opportunity from an acute angle.
Chicago doubled their lead 2-0.
Houston wouldn’t roll over in this match and showed signs of life in the 24th minute. Former Red Star Kristie Mewis was tripped up in the box by midfielder Julie Ertz. This allowed the Dash a chance to draw closer with a penalty kick opportunity.
There was some debate as to who would take the penalty kick. Would Mewis look to score against her former team? Mewis then relinquished the opportunity to Dash captain Amber Brooks and she would convert and cut the Red Star lead in half.
Brooks luck would turn and she would experience misfortune in stoppage time of the first half. The Dash captain was whistled for a handball inside of the penalty area after dispossessing Red Star defender Casey Short. The ball appears to have bounced and hit off her hand but the call was frankly a bit harsh.
Press would convert the penalty against fellow Stanford graduate Jane Campbell and the Red Stars went into the locker room with a comfortable 3-1 lead.
The action on the scoreboard would slow down until the 85th minute when Rachel Daly created a world class finish and cut the Chicago lead to one in the closing moments of the match. Alyssa Naeher would quickly be challenged a few moments later when she stopped a point blank shot from Sarah Hagen in stoppage time. The Red Stars would hold on and clinch a playoff position for the third straight year.
They will know whether they face the Portland Thorns or North Carolina Courage at the conclusion of the NWSL regular season next weekend.