That’s all Chicago Red Stars head coach Rory Dames had to say when asked what changed between his team’s 1-0 win over the North Carolina Courage on June 5th and Sunday night’s 1-0 lightning-delayed and rain-soaked loss.
The kick in question was scored by Courage striker Amy Rodriguez in the 39th minute after a hand ball in the box by Chicago defender Kayla Sharples, who was attempting to play the ball with her shoulder.
“[You] can’t let that happen at this level,” Dames said of the hand ball, adding that he felt bad for Sharples. “But then I thought the response of the group was great.”
The result, and it coming via a PK in particular, spoiled the return to action of Red Stars goalkeeper Emily Boyd who made her first start since July of 2020 in the Challenge Cup against Portland after recovering from an ACL injury.
“I’m disappointed with my first game back being a loss and letting in a PK,” said Boyd, who made 4 saves and said she found out earlier this week that she’d be making her 2021 debut.
While getting another point (or three) in the standings would have been of highest importance in the big picture, it was clear in his postgame comments that Dames was frustrated in particular that the team couldn’t do better for Boyd.
“I thought Em was really good, I feel bad for her,” Dames said. “She hadn’t played since she hurt herself, she’s been training great, she’s had good success against North Carolina so I thought she went in and was fantastic. It’s disappointing that she takes the loss on a defensive mistake that leads to a penalty kick.”
The Red Stars again employed a hybrid back-3/back-4 system as they did earlier in the year vs the Courage, but with injuries and national team absences significantly impacting the team selection the tactics didn’t click in quite the same way despite the best efforts of Katie Johnson, Mallory Pugh and Kealia Watt in the attack.
“We’re still just a pass away, a touch away, a shot away, so I genuinely feel bad for the group tonight because they certainly deserved at least a point out of the game if not more,” said Dames.
The Red Stars won’t have much time to dwell on what didn’t go their way in the rain on Sunday night, with less than 72 hours until their first ever trip to Louisville for another road match and the start of the inaugural Women’s Cup.