The return of a fully fit Mallory Pugh was essential to the Red Stars’ 4-0 victory on Saturday night. Pugh was involved in all four Red Stars’ goals and played a pivotal role in the much-needed win for Chicago.
The Red Stars started the game hot, with Mallory Pugh opening the scoring in just the 3rd minute of play. Wingback, Bianca St-Georges, played a beautiful ball over the top to pick out the on-running Pugh. She was able to bring the ball down before driving into the box and finishing masterfully. The Red Stars continued to push and scored the second just 15 minutes later.
Pugh turned creator this time as she picked out Yuki Nagasato’s head with an inch-perfect out-swinging ball to put the Red Stars up 2-0. Just minutes later, the duo of Nagasato and Pugh struck again. Chicago earned a free kick on the opposite side of the pitch just outside of the box. Pugh, this time, took the free kick with her left foot and found Nagasato in the box with a low out-swinging cross. Nagasato expertly took the chance with the back of her heel and placed the ball into the far corner to give the Red Stars a three-goal advantage.
Louisville did have their chances, though. Alyssa Naeher was called into action in the 36th minute to make a great diving save on Wang Shuang’s long-range effort. After the quick scare, Chicago almost got their fourth of the match, but sadly, Pugh’s effort from just outside of the eighteen struck the woodwork.
Louisville continued their quest back into the game in the second half. In the 52nd minute of play, defender, Amanda Kowalski, was forced into making a goal-saving block inside her own penalty area to keep the score at 3-0. Louisville continued to push for a breakthrough and almost found the back of the net in the 62nd. A crazy sequence started with Emily Fox putting in a cross that the Red Stars failed to deal with cleanly. Nadia Nadim ended up with the ball, and her strike from the top of the box was hit powerfully but right at Naeher. However, Naeher spilled it, triggering Louisville’s best chance of the match. Savannah DeMelo pounced on the rebound and hit it off the post before whiffing on the second rebound. The Red Stars were lucky to walk away unscathed.
Chicago was able to close out the game against the run of play by scoring a fourth. Once again, it was the combination of Pugh and Nagasato, but this time, it was Nagasato who assisted Pugh. Nagasato threaded a brilliant through ball that Pugh slotted home to complete her brace and complete the scoring for the Red Stars.
This 4-0 win should hopefully give the Red Stars the momentum and the confidence they need as they continue to fight for their spot in the playoffs.
The Chicago Red Stars next play OL Reign on Friday, September 9th.