Casey Short, who not only should be leading the race for Defender of the Year but also be in the conversation for the NWSL MVP, got the vital goal to keep Chicago in the driving seat for a playoff place.
Some sturdy defending and Ashlyn Harris keep Orlando in the game
The Chicago Red Stars looked to get three points which would aid their playoff quest but came up against an Orlando Pride team that seemed ready to match whatever Chicago could throw at them. When the Orlando defense failed occasion, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was there to make a big save time and time again. Harris' saves on Morgan Brian, Julie Ertz and Samantha Kerr to name a few gave Orlando a platform to build on as the game drew on. Without her saves, especially in the second half when she was one-on-one with Kerr, Orlando would have probably conceded far sooner than they did.
Ali Krieger and Shelina Zadorsky were also stout defensively and handled whatever Chicago through at them for the most part. They not only tracked the Red Stars' runs well but they also remained strong when they had to man-mark the likes of Kerr and Yuki Nagasato.
A red card not enough to stop Chicago
In the 64th minute, Katie Johnson received a second yellow card which could easily have been a straight red after a horrible tackle on Kristen Edmonds. Instead of drawing back, head coach Rory Dames brought on Savannah McCaskill, knowing that anything less than three points tonight would hurt Chicago's playoff goal. Although McCaskill showed glimpses, she ultimately was not as effective as she could have been had Chicago had a full team on the field.
It took a very late mental error by Orlando for Chicago to beat Harris. In the 94th minute, Orlando's corner kick was cleared away and Julie Ertz raced forward alone. The Red Stars defender then held up and Zoey Goralski who had come down the flank after Ertz. Goralski's initial cross was cleared away by Orlando's defense but the second cross in by Kerr proved telling. Short out-jumped Dani Weatherholt and although Harris got a hand to the header, it was too powerful to stop, which led to the only goal of the game.
It may not have been the best game that Chicago has played this season but at this point, every win counts with seven teams all still pushing to make the playoffs. Orlando stayed strong but lost their concentration right at the death, succumbing them to another defeat this season.