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OCT 27
3:30 PM ET
ESPN
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Press brace leads Chicago Red Stars to victory over Orlando Pride
Alanna Kennedy scores Orlando's first-ever goal vs. Red Stars
Christen Press celebrates her first half goal against the Orlando Pride. (Photo credit: Daniel Bartel for isiphotos.com)
Christen Press celebrates her first half goal against the Orlando Pride. (Photo credit: Daniel Bartel for isiphotos.com)

The Chicago Red Stars took all three points and first place in the NWSL — for now — with a 2-1 win over the Orlando Pride in front of 4,742 fans at Toyota Park. Christen Press scored a brace, and the Red Stars were able to withstand some late pressure and a stoppage time goal from the Pride for the victory at home.

Orlando started off the game with plenty of possession — they held the edge 60.1% to the Red Stars’ 39.9% for the first half. But Press gave her team the lead against the run of play in the 29th minute.

Midfielder Sofia Huerta picked out Press, whose first touch helped her beat Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger. Press then beat Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe to the right, and had an open goal before her for the first goal of the match.

Press provided the eventual game-winner in the second half in the 52nd minute, and once again the play involved fellow national teamer Ali Krieger. As Krieger couldn’t quite get the right touch on a clearance, the ball fell to Chicago’s Jen Hoy. Hoy immediately pushed it ahead to Press, who was sitting in the gap between Orlando’s back line. Another one-on-one challenge against Bledsoe, and Press buried it from 12 yards out.

After the match, Press said on the Lifetime broadcast, “I think Orlando actually had the better of possession today, and actually the last time we played them. But I think it’s important for us, over the course of a season you have to win in all types of circumstances. Sometimes you have to grind it out and defend really hard, and then put away your chances. That’s what we did today. “

Pride forward Alex Morgan had the best chance of the first half for Orlando, but Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher provided the point-blank stop on Morgan’s header to prevent any shifting momentum.

Morgan noted in her assessment of the game after the final whistle that the Red Stars successfully defended by pushing all their attempts to the left wing. The Pride finished with four shots on goal, with half of those provided by Morgan.

“We pushed numbers and we finally got a couple more chances,” Morgan told Dalen Cuff, “but during the bulk of the middle of the game we didn’t really get into the box that much, and you gotta get into the box to score goals.”

Chicago head coach Rory Dames was ejected at halftime for language and behavior. Chioma Ubogagu of the Pride had tugged on Press’s jersey, but no card was given by referee Farhad Dadkho.

“I’m not sure how that’s not a yellow card,” Dames told Dalen Cuff on Lifetime after the first half ended. As for the performance of his side, he said, “We gotta do a better job of holding onto the ball. They’ve pushed us into our end pretty far.”

After Press scored in the 52nd minute, Orlando went on the hunt for a goal to get back into the match. Marta took a free kick in the 56th minute, but the shot went wide even before Naeher got her hands to it.

Defender Alanna Kennedy finally scored in stoppage time to rob Naeher of her clean sheet, as well as score the first goal against the Red Stars in Pride history. Kennedy headed a long cross further into the box, where substitute Rachel Hill got her foot to it and sent it back across the face of goal. Kennedy was there for the diving strike.

Kennedy immediately picked up the ball for the restart, but the Pride couldn’t manage an equalizer in the final two minutes of the match as the Red Stars possessed and passed their way to the win.

Midfielder Julie Ertz came on for the second half, and was a big part of how the Chicago Red Stars clamped down on the Pride’s offense. She came into the match wanting to make a difference defensively, with specific improvements in mind after having watched the first half from the bench.

“I thought their movement’s really good,” she said of the Pride after the game. “Obviously, Marta’s a very talented player, as well as them having Alex [Morgan]. From the last game when we played them, I know that she came in a little bit later in the game but they do really good movement off each other. So it really spaces out the space that’s in between the midfield and the defensive line. That was really hurting us. Obviously, Marta’s very good on the ball faced up. So that was a big thing in the second half that we didn’t want to happen, obviously because of how good she is!”

As for coming in to the second half as Dames was making his exit, Ertz smiled when asked about if it affected the team or her role as a substitute. “I think Rory, this year now that we’re older — an older team, still young, but a lot of us have been together for four years — even in practice he really puts a lot of it on us. Me and Press have a bigger role this year, than we maybe did in the past years. It really didn’t make that much of a difference in the sense that, even in practice, he really forces us to take initiative to hold ourselves to a higher standard. It’s actually a good thing for us, if it were to happen in the semis or something, we need to have seen everything, you know? You don’t know what’s going to happen. Rory’s a great coach, he’s really trained us well in case that happens.”

When the NWSL returns from the international break, these two teams will get another crack at each other on August 5. Next time it will be on Orlando’s home turf at Orlando City Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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