Chicago Red Stars 2 (Kerr 25’, Nagasato 48’)
Winless in 7 consecutive matches, the Red Stars came into their final match before the international break desperately needing a good performance to propel them into the second half of the season. They’d have to wait a little longer, as it took a whole day of waiting out some classic Washington summer weather to get the match in, but eventually Chicago was able to do just that, taking the Spirit down 2-0 behind goals from Sam Kerr and Yuki Nagasato.
For all the trouble Chicago sometimes has integrating their national-level talent into their lineup, they have a great history of pulling together in the absence of their USWNT stars, and that tenacity was on display for much of the match. A young and depleted Washington team didn’t necessarily provide the level of opposition to slow the Red Stars down, but the conditions were always going to make for a grind of a game where hopefully no one got hurt.
Chicago was on the front foot for much of the start of the match, and they found a patch of daylight in the middle of the rain in the 25th minute, when after a foul outside the Washington box Nagasato took a well-placed free kick, forcing a save from Kelsey Wys. The rebound of the blocked shot fell to a sprinting Kerr, who rocketed the ball into the back of the net.
While the rebound was a bit lucky, the goal was another example of how the Nagasato-Kerr connection is developing every week, and the longer those two are on the pitch together more and more good things are going to happen for the Red Stars. When Nagasato joined Chicago last year, injuries (as well as Chicago’s attacking formation) slowed down her ability to make an immediate impact on the squad. This year however she’s been a revelation, and has been key in integrating Kerr into her new team.
Nagasato’s reign of terror continued in the 48th minute to double Chicago’s lead, when Rosie White sent the ball in from out wide to Yuki, who did a quick give and go with Alyssa Mautz before placing the ball on the ground near-post to slip it past the diving Wys. Again, the defending of the Spirit left a lot to be desired, but Nagasato’s poise and placement on the ball gave her the edge she needed to put the ball where no one could get it.
The rest of the match was mostly spent mitigating dangerous areas of the field and making sure no one got hurt. In her professional debut, Chicago keeper Emily Boyd had a great stop in stoppage time to secure the shutout and, just like that, Chicago had another win.
See what head coach Rory Dames had to say about the match below
As good as this match felt, Chicago obviously can’t get too ahead of themselves; there’s still a lot of work to be done. But momentum is a real factor in the NWSL, and the second half rush for a spot in the top four is going to be vicious. Time for the group to get some rest, refocus, and reload for the home stretch.