It took six meetings for the Orlando Pride to finally beat the Chicago Red Stars, and they did it in a midweek game on the road at Toyota Park. The 2-0 victory was historic in many ways. Aside from being the first time that Orlando had ever beaten Chicago, it also doubled the number of goals that Orlando had scored in the previous five meetings between the teams and most impressively, it marked the first time that Chicago has ever been shut out at Toyota Park.
The game was marked by star absences from both teams. For Orlando, forward Alex Morgan was left out of the starting lineup with a hyperextended knee. Morgan was available for the match, but she would never see the field. For the home team, midfielder Julie Ertz was out with a back injury after making her season debut on Saturday in a 1-1 draw against the Washington Spirit. Chicago was also still missing defender Casey Short and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo. Neither player has been on the field for the Red Stars during the 201 regular season.
Despite the final scoreline, the match was evenly played throughout. For the first 75 minutes of the match, it felt like the two teams were evenly matched, with the difference being that Orlando took advantage of Chicago's mistakes while Chicago couldn't capitalize when given the opportunity. The deadlock was broken in the first half when Orlando forward Chioma Ubogagu took a shot from inside the penalty area that deflected off a Red Star defender and found the side netting just past the outstretched hand of Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. The 28th-minute strike was the only separation between the two teams when they headed into the locker room at halftime, as both teams shared possession evenly during the first 45.
The second half had a false start, of sorts, when lightning caused a delay in action after the 57th minute of play. When the game resumed, the Red Stars came out firing and had their best chances of the night but the offense could never find a rhythm. As Chicago continued to push, it was clear that they were running out of gas and ideas on offense. It was in the 81st minute that a fast-break opportunity broke down the Chicago defense. Orlando forward Rachel Hill collected the ball, dribbled calmly around Naeher, and slotted the ball slowly into the net. The goal was nearly disallowed when a fellow Pride player thought about tapping the ball in from an offside position, but she smartly let it roll in on its own and Hill was credited with her first goal of the season. Chicago head coach Rory Dames tried to energize the team with a late substitution, but it was all for naught as the team would be shut out at home. Chicago Red Stars forward Sam Kerr has been held without a goal for two straight games now, after scoring 17 and being named the NWSL MVP last season.
The Chicago Red Stars (2W-3D-2L; 9 points) will need to regroup quickly as they travel to North Carolina to face off against the North Carolina Courage (5W-1D-0L; 16 points) on Sunday.
The Orlando Pride (2W-2D-2L; 8 points) are off this weekend.