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Better late than never: Krueger goal earns point for Chicago in Houston

The Red Stars came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against playoff race rivals the Houston Dash.

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On a hot night in Houston, the Chicago Red Stars emerged with a point following a 1-1 draw with the Dash. There was very little to separate the teams, which are also effectively tied in the league table. After conceding in the first half, it took 77 minutes for the Red Stars to finally breakthrough, at a point which it seemed like it would not be their night.

The Red Stars started on the front foot, with numerous clear-cut chances coming in the first five minutes. There was action at both ends early on, as the Dash also created opportunities. Despite Pugh dramatically getting past the defense on the dribble in the 14th minute, Kealia Watt was unable to convert her header in her return to Houston.

The first goal of the match came from Rachel Daly, who beat Tierna Davidson on the ball to surge into the penalty box and score. The goal made Daly the Dash’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Kealia Watt. Houston had their chances to double their lead before halftime, with Kristie Mewis’ header from point-blank range which went over the bar among them, but when the whistle blew it was still 1-0.

Though they struggled to put the ball in the net, Chicago was effective in creating chances, with five shots on target and eleven corners won. Though Mallory Pugh’s deliveries were effective, none could find the back of the next in Houston.

Pugh herself was one of the Red Stars’ most effective players on the night, as she has been all season. Moments after halftime, she had a shot well saved by Jane Campbell. Campbell was also excellent for Houston, making four saves throughout the ninety minutes. The manner in which the Dash goalkeeper stopped every shot which came her way made it feel as if it was just not to be for the Red Stars, that was, at least until the 77th minute.

Pugh drew a foul just at the edge of the 18-yard box, and despite short-lived cries for a penalty kick, Danielle Colaprico stood over the free kick. Colaprico, who came in in the 69th minute for Katie Johnson, was unable to put the ball in the net, but Campbell between the sticks made an uncharacteristic mistake, parrying the shot and redirecting it into the path of Casey Krueger, who was arriving in front of the goal to head the ball home off of the rebound. The finish from Krueger was her first goal of the season and just her seventh in Chicago.

Despite shouts for a penalty from Rachel Daly in the last ten minutes, the Red Stars held on for a point. The point could prove to be crucial at the end of the season as the playoff race begins to heat up. The Red Stars and Dash are direct rivals, Chicago is three points clear but Houston has a game in hand.

Looking forward the NWSL will first take a one-week break for international matches, with Tierna Davidson, Casey Krueger, and Mal Pugh the affected players for Chicago. Then, the Red Stars will face a huge challenge when they face perennial contenders and regular-season leaders the Portland Thorns at 7:00 PM CT at home.