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A Bump in the Road: North Carolina Courage 4, Chicago Red Stars 0

The North Carolina Courage defeat the Chicago Red Stars in emphatic fashion.

NWSL: Chicago Red Stars at North Carolina Courage Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Red Stars were dominated Saturday night, losing to the North Carolina Courage by a score of 4 to 0. The Courage picked up three points for the first time in over two months and recorded just their second clean sheet of the season in what was an emphatic win. The Red Stars started the game off on the back foot, and the first goal for the Courage came only ten minutes in. Throughout the entirety of the match, the Courage were dangerous off of corner kicks as a result of Carson Pickett’s excellent set-piece deliveries.

The Courage’s first goal came from Pickett’s whipped ball in, which was then headed away by Diana Ordóñez. The Courage nearly doubled their advantage through Brianna Pinto. Her long-range effort in the 25th minute was denied by the post to the Red Stars’ relief.

The Red Stars’ biggest chance in the first half came in the 34th minute. Mallory Pugh crossed a ball in from the left flank to find Vanessa DiBernardo. In what should have at least been a shot on target, DiBernardo headed over the bar from close range.

Carson Pickett’s corner kick in the 37th minute yet again had the Red Stars scrambling, as Ordóñez was almost able to put away her second of the match from the set piece.

Coming out hungry in the second half, it was the Red Stars who threatened first. In the 48th minute, DiBernardo rifled a first-time shot from the top of the box. The effort smacked off of the crossbar, initiating a crazy sequence in the box. Bouncing around, the ball finally fell to Yuki Nagasato. Nagasato had a crack from inside the box, but unfortunately, the shot was deflected over the goal for a Red Stars’ corner.

After a quick scare, North Carolina regained control of the match. The Red Stars were relieved to see Ordóñez miscue her effort off of a dangerous cross in the 51st minute, and then again in the 63’ minute when a dangerous effort off of a corner kick was deflected wide. The deflection however resulted in another corner kick, and again, Pickett showed her quality from a dead ball. Pickett’s delivery was poorly defended by the Red Stars, and the bouncing ball finally found Fuka Nagano’s foot. Full connected, and the ball rolled into the bottom corner to make it 2-0 Courage.

The Red Stars’ tried to draw level through Mallory Pugh in the 66th minute, whose effort rolled just wide of the far post, and through Sarah Luebbert in the 69th minute, whose shot was saved by a diving Casey Murphy.

In the 74th minute, however, the Courage struck again. Fuka Nagano picked out Ordóñez in the box. Showing some brilliant individual skill, Ordóñez sent Bianca St-Georges sliding by before finishing into the far corner to make it 3-0. Ordóñez’s brace now makes her the NWSL’s third highest scorer.

The Courage almost scored twice more before their fourth goal in the 89th minute. In the final five minutes of regulation, Kerolin, who had looked dangerous all night for the Courage, cut a ball back across goal for Ordóñez, who was denied on the goal line by Chicago defenders. Moments later, Kerolin again drove at the Chicago defense in what was a 4-on-1 situation. Selfishly, she went alone and skied her effort from inside the box.

In the 89th minute though, Kerolin made no mistake. Instead of going alone again, she picked out Rylee Baisden who then finished first time into the bottom left corner.

A great night for the Courage, in what was their biggest win of the year, and most certainly a night to forget for the Red Stars. The Red Stars were out-shot, out-possessed, and out-played in every aspect of this match. The Courage dictated the run of play throughout, and the Red Stars, despite their chances, never deserved to win this match. The Red Stars struggled in this game, especially after starting center back Tatumn Milazzo came off injured. Following Milazzo’s substitution, Sarah Luebbert and Bianca St-Georges were forced to play out of position in a back three, and following Milazzo’s departure, the Red Stars conceded three goals.

The Red Stars could blame the loss on Milazzo’s injury or Mallory Pugh not being fully fit, but the truth of the matter is that the Red Stars were poor tonight. They will have to play much better in their coming matches if they want to have any chance of retaining their playoff spot.

The Chicago Red Stars’ next game is Saturday the 27th against Racing Louisville at 6:30 CST.