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Black Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose: Chicago Red Stars 1, Seattle Reign 0, NWSL Game Recap

Kerr pulled through for injured teammates in a statement game

Chicago Red Stars 1 Kerr 87’

Seattle Reign 0

When Arin Gilliland went down hard right before the half of Chicago’s clash with Seattle on Saturday night, and stretchered right to a waiting ambulance, it looked like everything was about to go horribly wrong for the Red Stars.

Finally coming into a match with a full week of rest, and possessing well throughout the first 45 minutes, Chicago had the rug pulled completely out from under them in a very scary sequence that necessitated Gilliland’s substitution, and after taking halftime to collect themselves they wouldn’t have been faulted if they had been caught making mental lapses as the game continued.

But the Red Stars flipped the momentum late, and a typically incredible move from Yuki Nagasato sprang Sam Kerr free, and the Golden Boot leader pulled her team into the sunset with her, notching Chicago’s lone strike in the 87th minute.

Outside of two (and a half) moments of medical panic, the match itself indicated that the Red Stars and the Reign match up well, with solid chances on both sides. However, when we anticipated a battle in the midfield, we didn’t plan for the idea to get quite so literal. In addition to Gilliland’s injury, Danny Colaprico had to be subbed out in the 66th minute after being tackled mid-air, and Alyssa Naeher looked like she picked up a knock in the dying minutes of the match after landing awkwardly while defending Jasmyne Spencer.

Seattle doesn’t always come into matches with an overly physical game-plan, but one has to wonder if the laissez faire approach to officiating that has permeated the league for the entirety of the season has seeped into the approach from all the teams in the league, if even only because it’s impossible for it not to. When you’re given room to up the ante when looking for any advantage, you’re going to fill the space given to you. And that can lead down a road that ends with serious injuries.

But let’s go back to that goal. Goal kicks are not Michele Betos’s strongest suit, and she had under-kicked quite a few of them as the match had progressed. Kerr had taken up the space across the field from where Betos was aiming, ready for a quick counter should the opportunity arise. And wow, did it ever. Betos didn’t get the lift on the kick that she was hoping for, and the ball found Nagasato’s head well short of midfield. Yuki had seen Kerr in that space, and headed a laser to put Kerr in one-on-one with Betos. Kerr then quieted some open-look demons she’d been struggling with this season, and calmly passed the ball far post into the goal to give Chicago a crucial late lead.

Hear what Sam Kerr, Rory Dames, and Megan Rapinoe had to say about the match here:

All of the moments that led to the Red Stars victory felt like quantifiable improvements that they’ve worked so hard on over the summer: Sam and Yuki have melded minds, Sarah Gorden stepped in last minute to defend a shut-out, Sam nailed a one-on-one opportunity, and Chicago got a much-needed win.

Time to send healing vibes to Gilliland, and look onward and upwards towards the tail end of the season.