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Pulling Focus: Chicago Red Stars 1, Portland Thorns 1, NWSL Game Recap

Eleven players on a field, asking for your attention

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Red Stars

Chicago Red Stars 1 Nagasato 43’

Portland Thorns 1 Horan 48’

This recap isn’t going to be about the trade.

Yes, there is going to be a trade, and it’s going to be big. Yes, it involves Sofia Huerta, Taylor Comeau, and Sam Johnson, and yes, it involves Chicago, Houston, and Utah, and no we don’t know anything more than that, and no...none of those players played for Chicago tonight.

For better or worse, that ship has likely sailed (salud), and in the harsh light of change it is now our job to take refuge in what we already have, which tonight was a pretty solid 90 minutes of work against the Portland Thorns.

I’ve expressed my frustration with taking Portland on as an opponent before, and maybe it was the big trade (that I’m not going to talk about) or maybe it was just the heat in the air, but Chicago went direct tonight and for the most part it worked. The Red Stars pulled the Thorns off their game early, held on for a point late, and got a sense of the cavalry that’s coming in the upcoming weeks.

In light of some of the (not going to be commented upon) absences, particularly in the back-line, Julie Ertz dropped back into her classic role as a center-back, and played a solid full 90 minutes there for the Red Stars that they desperately needed. Alyssa Naeher was also increasingly vocal in her keeper role, keeping the defense intact, and when she was in motion Ertz was an authoritative presence holding the line together.

Up front, Yuki Nagasato and Sam Kerr continued their two-player offensive tandem, perhaps more intentionally now more than ever. Whenever Nagasato got the ball, she was looking to play Kerr onto Portland’s goal, and Kerr always had her head up to see those crosses coming in.

In one of those sequences, Nagasato played Kerr onto the ball in the 43rd minute, where she was promptly taken down in the box by Thorns defender Kelli Hubly. The penalty was called, Yuki took it, and though Portland keeper Britt Eckerstrom got her hand on the first attempt, the Japanese forward was there to hit in the rebound to put Chicago up 1-0 at the end of the first half.

To their credit Portland, true to form, stayed incredibly dangerous at the beginning of the second half. They quickly found an equalizer off of perennial set-piece star Lindsey Horan, who continued her deadly run against Chicago in the 48th minute. (She was marked by somebody else this time. See what a good job I’m doing not talking about it!).

Neither team seemed all that content with the tie that followed, but the Red Stars also got some late-game time from both Casey Short and Vanessa Dibernardo, both of whom the team has desperately missed in the first half of the 2018 NWSL season. Short is a true defender, and Dibernardo can unlock opposing defenses and Morgan Brian was in the crowd and I’m not! going! to! talk! about! it! but it feels like Chicago might be okay no matter what happens.

The Red Stars will take on their trade-mates (of some undetermined kind!) the Utah Royals on June 23rd, and try to take the positive energy from the draw and turn it into a win. At some point, that’s all that can be done.