In what was the first-ever match-up between Angel City and the visiting Chicago Red Stars, the expansion side came away victorious. The loss saw the Red Stars fall from fourth to sixth and helped Angel City move to just two points and one place back. Although Chicago did look dangerous at times and certainly had their opportunities to get on the scoresheet, the Red Stars were so desperately in need of the injured Mallory Pugh for some offensive production.
The first big chance of the game came for Angel City in the 20th minute. A powerful header from close range was parried away by a diving Alyssa Naeher, keeping Chicago in the game. The last real chance of the half came in the 26th minute. Sarah Luebbert’s shot was pushed wide by the goalkeeper but not caught. An on-running St-Georges was able to get a touch on the rebound, but not enough to keep her from steering her attempt outside of the post from close range.
Angel City scored the game’s only goal just three minutes into the second half. Claire Emslie managed to pick up the ball on the right wing and executed an early cross. Zoey Morse of the Red Stars was only able to get a piece of the cross and the miscued clearance deflected into the on-running Savannah McCaskill. McCaskill, who had looked dangerous all night, bundled the ball in from close range to make it 1-0.
Unfortunately for the Red Stars, the comeback just was not on the cards. In the 66th minute, Bianca St-Georges blundered her second chance of the game. St-Georges found herself in the box, one on one with Angel City’s goalkeeper. Instead of taking on the chance herself, she tried to square the ball to an oncoming player to put into an open net. However, the pass was unsuccessful, and both possession and the chance were squandered.
For about the last twenty minutes of the game, Angel City sat deep and made defensive changes to try and see out the game. Allowing the Red Stars to dictate the run of play, the Chicago outfit managed to carve out some chances for themselves. Substitutes Rachel Hill and Sarah Griffith had both of their efforts blocked in quick succession in the 84th minute, and in the 86th, Griffith carved out the last real opportunity for the Red Stars. Picking up a loose ball in midfield, Griffith drove forward. Running at pace, she was able to get the better of her defender in the box to create a one-on-one situation with Angel City’s goalkeeper. Griffith’s shot, however, was saved brilliantly and was enough for Angel City to keep both their clean sheet and the three points.
Although the Red Stars did not perform poorly, it was certainly not the dominant performance that the team had against Gotham in their last home game. With that being said, the Red Stars need to raise the standard of their performances if they want to make the playoffs for the seventh straight campaign. Clinical finishing in front of goal was missing tonight, and hopefully, Mallory Pugh will be available for the Red Stars in their next game against the North Carolina Courage.
With North Carolina winless in their last six, an inconsistent Chicago team should feel confident going into next weekend. With things so tight in the table, the Red Stars must raise the standard of their performances and dominate matches to ensure their playoff spot. What is most important for the Red Stars now is how they respond to this loss and how they ensure that they are ready to bounce back this coming weekend.
The Red Stars are on the road again next Saturday to play the North Carolina Courage.