Chicago Red Stars Defeat North Carolina Courage 2-1
The Chicago Red Stars defeated the North Carolina Courage in front of a new record attendance for a stand alone home match. Photo:

The Chicago Red Stars triumphed over the reigning NWSL champions the  North Carolina Courage in a match in which both teams featured the return of four World Cup champions. Somewhat of a rivalry was also on display, for the Courage had defeated the Red Stars in the semifinals of the NWSL playoffs in the last two seasons.

Courage score first, Red Stars respond

The first scoring opportunity of the match was earned by the Courage. A long throw-in from World Cup champion Jessica McDonald flew through the box, but none of her teammates could connect with it.

Fellow World Cup champion Alyssa Naeher was called into action in the 15th minute save a shot by McDonald who was in on goal.

In the 25th minute, veteran midfielder McCall Zerboni played the ball to Brazilian teammate Debinha who broke away from Chicago's defense only to be denied by Naeher.

At the half hour mark, the Courage (after already forcing Naeher to make five saves) took the lead via 2016 NWSL Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot Winner Lynn Williams. Debinha sent in a devastating curling through ball that beat the Red Stars back line, and Williams slotted it home from an angle at the side of the box.

The home team equalized in the 37th minute. Vanessa DiBernardo, a local product, made an excellent heads-up play to get through on goal during a free kick and then smoothly buried a perfect ball from Arin Wright, who is usually an outside-back but was playing as a winger. It was her first goal this season.

Vanessa DiBernardo and Samantha Kerr scored for the Red Stars in the  37th and 58th minutes, respectively. Photo:
Vanessa DiBernardo and Samantha Kerr scored for the Red Stars in the 37th and 58th minutes, respectively. Photo: Daniela Porcelli

Kerr extends Golden Boot race lead

The lethal Australian striker Samantha Kerr scored her league-leading tenth goal of this season in the 58th minute. Going one-on-on with Courage captain Abby Erceg, she managed to create space in the box and fire a shot past Stephanie Labbe.

Kerr would have found the back of the net again in the 67th minute if it wasn't for a goal line clearance by a Courage defender.

Substitute Kristen Hamilton had the best chance for the Courage in the second half when she took a shot that squarely hit the post.

With the three points, the Chicago Red Stars (6-5-2) move up to third place in the NWSL standings. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Courage (6-3-4) drop down to second place because the Portland Thorns FC earned one point on Friday with a 2-2 draw against the Utah Royals FC.

Up next for the Red Stars is a trip to the Pacific North West to face Reign FC in Tacoma, Washington, on Sunday at 4 P.M. EST. Meanwhile, the Courage will make another appearance on prime time television with a contest against the Royals on Saturday night at 10 P.M. EST.