Chicago Red Stars prove their worth with dramatic victory over the North Carolina Courage
Lynn Williams (left) takes on Katie Naughton. Source: North Carolina Courage

It was just last Sunday that these two sides met, the Chicago Red Stars pulling off an unlikely 3-1 victory in that match. Despite four key players on the injury list, Chicago named an unchanged starting eleven. In comparison, the North Carolina Courage made three changes from their last match, which was a 2-0 victory over Sky Blue FC.

Even first half

The first half was a very open one, with chances for both sides - the first of which was created by Julie Ertz, as her threaded pass was chipped over both Sabrina D'Angelo (and the goal) by Christen Press.

The Courage's best chance of the opening exchanges was the result of an error at the back by the Red Stars. Alyssa Mautz, tracking back from midfield, won the ball in her own box but her clearance went straight to Lynn Williams on the edge of the box. She made space and unleashed a shot that had Alyssa Naeher flying, but the ball whistled just wide of the upright.

After dominating possession, Chicago did get the deserved lead in the 27th minute, through an unlikely source.

Arin Gilliland broke down the right-hand side and crossed towards Vanessa DiBernardo. DiBernardo's touch laid the ball right into the path of the unmarked Danielle Colaprico at the back post, and she stabbed home what was only her third goal in as many years in the NWSL.

Danielle Colaprico (right) was on the scoresheet tonight. Source: Lewis Gettier
Danielle Colaprico (right) was on the scoresheet tonight. Source: Lewis Gettier

Things went from bad to worse for the Courage just minutes later, when what looked like a harmless challenge from Mautz on Yuri Kawamura left the Japanese international unable to continue; she was replaced by Debinha.

This substitution resulted in four added minutes at the end of the half, and the Courage took use of it, by finding the equaliser with just seconds remaining.

A ball played in behind forced Sam Johnson to concede a corner; Abby Dahlkemper swung the ball in right onto the head of captain and former Red Star Abby Erceg, who just had to redirect the ball past Naeher.

Red Stars turn on the style

The Red Stars probably felt aggrieved to be behind after a strong first-half, and they took very little time in the second before reclaiming their lead, as in the 54th minute Mautz bagged her first of the season.

North Carolina failed to clear a Chicago corner, and when the ball came back to Press on the edge of the area she dinked the ball towards the six-yard area, and Mautz beat both the offside trap and D'Angelo by nodding the ball into the back of the net.

Just five minutes later Chicago had their third with what is surely going to be a favourite for Goal of the Week.

After excellent play around the box from the Red Stars, Ertz's blocked shot came back to DiBernardo, and she made a little space for herself before firing an effort into the upper-left corner with her left boot. This was DiBernardo's second of the season - her first coming last weekend against the same opposition.

Late fightback

North Carolina refused to give in even at 3-1 down, and it took an excellent goalline header from Colaprico to prevent Jess McDonald getting on the board from a corner kick.

Set plays had been North Carolina's most likely way of scoring throughout the game and this proved true as they halved the deficit with ten minutes to go.

Katie Naughton (left) and Lynn Williams battle for the ball. Source: North Carolina Courage
Katie Naughton (left) and Lynn Williams battle for the ball. Source: North Carolina Courage

Sofia Huerta was called for a handball on the edge of the box and up stepped substitute Debinha to execute the perfect free kick into the right upper 90, past the diving Naeher.

The Courage pushed forward in the dying minutes in search of a dramatic equaliser but ultimately the Red Stars defence held strong.

Chicago climbing the table

The three points today have consolidated the Red Stars' position in second, although with two points behind the Courage in top spot with a game in hand, they will fancy themselves to continue moving up.

They play third-placed Seattle Reign next Sunday, whilst the Courage will try to bounce back against FC Kansas City.