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Still in Contention: Chicago Red Stars 2, OL Reign 2

The Chicago Red Stars’ playoff hopes are still alive and well after an enthralling 2-2 draw against playoff spot rivals, OL Reign.

NWSL: Chicago Red Stars at OL Reign Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Red Stars finished their four match away trip with a 2-2 draw against playoff spot competitors, OL Reign. In a match where the Reign had the majority of the clear cut chances, the Red Stars capitalized on their few opportunities, while their goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher, had a phenomenal match, doing exceptionally well to keep the Reign at just two goals on the night.

The Reign dominated the first half and found the opening goal just 18 minutes in. Their new signing from Paris Saint-Germain, Jordyn Huitema, bagged her first regular season goal to put the Reign in front. The Reign continued to press on and nearly doubled their advantage just a minute later. Rose Lavelle was able to create a great chance for USWNT teammate, Bethany Balcer. Balcer forced goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, to make a fantastic save on her effort from inside the box. The save was parried away, but only fell as far as Jordyn Huitema, who fluffed it from close range as she put the rebound wide.

Naeher was again called into action in the 25th minute. Megan Rapinoe’s shot was destined for the side netting of Chicago’s goal, but a diving Naeher thwarted the Reign yet again. Huitema was presented with another great chance to double the Reign’s lead in the 38th minute. Naeher was forced to parry a low cross away, and again, the ball came off of Naeher, and fell to Huitema inside the box. Huitema pounced again on the rebound, but again, was unable to steer the ball into the back of the net. The golden opportunity bounced off the post and into the arms of a grateful Alyssa Naeher.

Despite dominating the first half, disaster struck for the OL Reign during first-half stoppage time. A combination of Reign defensive errors led to Chicago’s equalizer, starting with OL goalkeeper, Phallon Tullis-Joyce. Tullis-Joyce let Rachel Hill’s tame effort underneath her, which resulted in Hill’s shot bouncing off of the post. Ella Stevens won the race to the rebound before feeding the ball back in towards the center of the box and Hill. Hill’s subsequent shot was blocked right into Steven’s path, who then by put the ball into the bottom corner to equalize the game at one.

The Red Stars’ picked up their performance in the second half, after being outshot thirteen to four in the opening period. The introduction of Mallory Pugh at the beginning of the second half instilled some life into an outplayed Red Stars’ side, as the Red Stars went on to open the scoring in the second half. Yuki Nagasato’s shot caught the hand of OL Reign’s Sam Hiatt resulting in a penalty kick for the away side. Midfielder Danielle Colaprico, calmly dispatched the penalty to make it 2-1 to the Red Stars in the 68th minute.

The Reign were never out of it though. Rose Lavelle, who had been brilliant all night long, created space for a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area in the 80th minute. The shot was unstoppable and left the outstretched Naeher with no chance.

In the final fifteen minutes of the match, the Reign were the better team, and almost took all three points in the 4th minute of added time. The Red Stars held their breath as Rose Lavelle’s header smacked off of the crossbar. The rebound off of the woodwork fell only as far as Megan Rapinoe, whose first-time effort forced Alyssa Naeher to save the match with a diving stop.

Getting a result in a match where their opponent had the better of the scoring opportunities is huge for the Red Stars’ playoff hopes. Keeping the Reign to just one point on the night will keep the Red Stars in a good spot in the table as they enter the final four games of the regular season.

The Chicago Red Stars are back at home on Wednesday, September 14th, as they take on the Kansas City Current.