After a tie to open the tournament against Houston Dash on the 9th. In April, the Chicago Red Stars (0-1-1) returned to SeatGeek Stadium to take on the Portland Thorns (2-0-0) and suffered their first defeat of the tournament, 1-0.
To succeed offensively, Chicago had to play wide and stretch the field like they did the previous game, a difficult task against a Portland team known for their defensive prowess. With that in mind, Red Stars coach Rory Dames moved his number 10, Vanessa Dibernardo, to the left wing.
Defensively, the Red Stars knew they had to neutralize Portland’s midfield, especially Rocky Rodriguez, who was an impressive 80 percent hit in his passing and pulled off a perfect 4-for-4 in one-on-one situations last week against Kansas City. Before tonight, Celeste Burey led the league with 14 stolen bases. Completing the trio is Megan Klingenberg, who is considered one of the best two-way players in the NWSL.
The Red Stars had some success on the wings today, especially with Dibernardo, but never found a way to mount a consistent attack. Outside of Kylia Watt, the lack of speed to stretch the defense seems like a fatal flaw of this team, and Chicago fans may have to get used to low offensive production from their club. On the other hand, the Red Stars’ defense was rock solid, completely shutting down Portland’s talented midfielders with one exception.
In light of the recent events surrounding alleged racial abuse by the Houston Dash goalkeeper, tonight’s game was more than just a regular soccer game, as both teams knelt in solidarity immediately following kickoff.
Both teams started the first half sloppy, playing the ball back and forth too often to develop an attacking rhythm. In the 16th district. Chicago began to dominate at the tackle position in the 42nd minute, attacking through Deiberando and Watt, the latter of them applying constant pressure on the Portland defensive line.
Twenty minutes into the first half, it was clear that Crvena Zvezda intended to pin the Thorns down deep and put their defenders on the field. Chicago’s best chance came after half an hour, when right back Tatumn Milazzo joined the attack and fired a shot from outside the box in through the left post.
But although the game was better, the Red Stars had little to show for it, aside from a couple of scoring chances. At halftime, the two clubs played out a scoreless draw.
The second half seemed to be underway until the seventh minute when Portland’s Tyler Lussie made a dangerous run along the Chicago goal line and beat Red Stars goalkeeper Cassie Miller with a beautiful throw that hit the crossbar. From that point on, you could feel a change in momentum as Portland’s confidence was boosted significantly.
In the 66th minute. The Thorns took the lead in the 42nd minute when forward Morgan Weaver fired a free kick in after a perfect pass from Storm. The Red Stars made three substitutions in the remaining ten minutes in hopes of mounting more attacks, but in the end it was all for naught as Portland shut down the defense and secured the 1-0 victory.
Since she was the only one to score, today’s game was a women’s weave. If Chicago manages to win or even tie, Dibernardo will be an easy choice because of his flair and creativity on the wing.
The Red Star Plaza in the background of Kansas City on the 20th. April at Toyota Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT, and the game can be watched live on Paramount+.
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