The Chicago Red Stars women's professional soccer team (1-4-2, 5pts) got their first win of the season last weekend, blazing past the league-leading Portland Thorns (6-2-1, 19pts) in a 2-0 defeat in front of 12,446 Thorns fans at Jeld-Wen Field over the weekend.
Zakiya Bywaters scored in the first half for Chicago, while Jackie Santacaterina added one in the second half.
“(I’m) extremely pleased with the effort and performance of the team, not just today but we’ve been gradually getting better,” said Rory Dames, Red Stars Head Coach. “It’s a very difficult environment to come in and play. It’s a great atmosphere if you’re the home team, but a bit difficult if you’re the away team.”
The Thorns were competing without four of their most prominent players— goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc , defender Rachel Buehler and forwards Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, who were participating in the June 2nd friendly between the United States and Canadian National Teams.
The Red Stars were also without a few key players, including goalkeeper Erin McLeod, defenders Carmelina Moscato and Rachel Quon, midfielder Shannon Boxx, Leslie Osborne, and utility player Lauren Fowlkes.
The first half was back and forth. The Red Stars' earliest opportunity came in the 11th minute when defender Michelle Wenino got a cross off from the right side of the field that found the head of Ella Masar.
Masar flicked it towards Grings who was heading to goal, but was called offside. Two minutes later the Thorns earned a freekick at the edge of the 18-yard box. The ball was floated towards a player charging the backpost but it flew just out of reach.
A Red Stars corner kick that put the visiting team ahead when Lydia Vandenbergh targeted Wenino on the far post. She got the ball across the face of the goal to Bywaters who headed it home in the 35th minute.
The Red Stars debuted their two international selections: Germans Sonja Fuss and Grings. Fuss slid into center back in her first match, while Grings was up top for Chicago. Both provided veteran leadership and experience for the team.
Fuss stepped in for her first NWSL match and successfully anchored and guided a Red Stars back line that held a shutout against co league-leaders Portland Thorns FC. Not only that, but Portland was limited to just 4 shots on goal during the match.
“We will get better in the next weeks,” said Fuss, who’s only trained for a week with the team. “It’s a new team so I have to get used to where people are going on the field.”
As the Washington Post reported, 11 games into its existence, the NWSL has a better idea of where it stands and what challenges lie ahead. Subsidized by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF,) and to a lesser extent, the Canadian and Mexican federations, the low-budget, eight-team league provides a platform for development and a showcase for U.S. national team players.
The Red Stars are heading home to Illinois Benedictine University in Lisle after a month on the road.
On Sunday, the Red Stars play the Boston Breakers, featuring USWNT players Sydney Leroux and Heather O'Reilly, on Sunday, June 9th , at 3 p.m, followed by the FC Kansas City on Thursday, June 13th, 6:30 p.m.
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