The Chicago Red Stars’ season was brought to a close after suffering a 2-1 defeat to the San Diego Wave in the first round of the NWSL playoffs.
Although Chicago dominated the first half of regular time and got themselves an early lead, the momentum of the game soon shifted to the home side. Putting the first 40 minutes of the match behind them, San Diego took the game by the scruff of the neck and fought their way back into the game by creating chance after chance.
Spurred on by a massive home crowd of over 26,000 fans, a lively San Diego side found a deserved equalizer in the second half of regulation, and then a winner in extra time.
San Diego looked very much out of it in the opening period when Yuki Nagasato capitalized off of Kailen Sheridan’s error in the 10th minute. The Wave goalkeeper’s misplayed pass fell right to Nagasato, who lobbed the ball into the back of the net from just outside the penalty area.
The early goal certainly gave Chicago momentum, as they dominated the first 40 minutes of the match in both possession and chances.
Chicago came closest to a second in the 32nd minute. Mal Pugh’s effort took a massive deflection off of a Wave defender and fell just inches wide of the post.
The Wave found some rhythm near the end of the half as they created some chances to draw level.
The Wave looked especially threatening off of set pieces as they continually tried to find the 6 foot 1 Taylor Kornieck.
In the 41st minute, Kornieck’s header off a corner fell just wide of the post. Again in the 5th minute of first half stoppage time, Kornieck got on the end of a corner kick with her head. Her effort had Chicago’s goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher, beat. Luckily for Chicago, Yuki Nagasato came to the rescue as she headed away what was a most certain goal.
San Diego started the second half the same way they ended the first as they continued to find a rhythm and gain dominance in the match.
Emily Van Edmond came close in the 53rd when her effort flew just inches wide of the post.
As San Diego pressed on, Van Edmond was the one to equalize for the Wave in the 67th minute. Sofia Jakobsson’s cross took a deflection on the way in, sending the ball up into the air. First to the loose ball, Van Edmond struck a powerful first-time volley into the bottom corner to tally her first goal of the season.
Now in full control of the match, San Diego nearly took the lead through Taylor Kornieck in the 84th minute. Her shot took a deflection inside the box, and Naeher reacted quickly to make a great save to keep the match tied.
Despite San Diego’s second-half dominance, Chicago managed to hold on and force extra time, but continued to lack the energy and fitness of the San Diego side, and were exhausted by the end of regulation.
San Diego continued to outwork and outplay Chicago. The chances kept coming for San Diego, and the breakthrough finally came in the 110th minute from the Wave’s leading goal scorer.
Alex Morgan’s hopeful effort from the far left side of the box found the bottom corner. Naeher will be feeling disappointed that she could not make the save, as the somewhat tame effort was definitely stoppable.
The massive home crowd certainly was key to San Diego’s win and getting them back in the game. After Nagasato’s goal in the opening ten minutes, it looked like Chicago’s game to lose, yet the hosts clawed their way back and soon took full control of the match. Continual chance creation and domination of possession was enough to wear the Red Stars down physically and at the end of the 120 minutes, Chicago looked completely out of gas.
However, the Red Stars should be proud of their performance both tonight and this season given all of the drama going on behind the scenes at the club. Although the club has a lot to sort out behind closed doors this off season, the Chicago Red Stars will certainly be back next season firing on all cylinders.