LISLE, Ill. — Fielding lineups missing many of their star players, some of the Chicago Red Stars and Seattle Reign started to etch their own legacies on Sunday night. In each team’s first game as members of the new National Women’s Soccer League, the Red Stars overcame an early deficit as they rallied to tie the Reign, 1-1.
The Reign were missing US national team goalkeeper Hope Solo to injury, and coach Laura Harvey elected to start Michelle Betos in goal. Betos made spectacular saves in the second half, but her misplayed pass in the 19th minute led to a Red Stars’ equalizer. After Zakiya Bywaters controlled an errant Betos clearance and crossed it back into the box, Chicago midfielder Ella Masar flicked the ball over a defender with her back turned towards goal and Lori Chalupny volleyed it home in stride.
“I knew she’d be there,” Masar said of Chalupny. “It was a great finish. You get Lori in the six (yard box), she’s going to put the ball away every time.”
The Reign controlled the early stages of the game, pressing the Red Stars defense and forcing turnovers before scoring the game’s opening goal in the 10th minute. Christine Nairn capitalized for Seattle, diving in the six-yard box to head home Liz Bogus’s low cross.
“I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best,” Nairn said. “Next thing I know, everyone is running towards me.”
The corner flags at the Benedictine Sports Complex pulled taut from a strong wind and the artificial turf sped up the game, but neither team seemed to struggle with the difficult conditions. Chicago made the most of its home-field advantage, mixing quick touches with long crosses to spread out the Reign back line. Though the Red Stars fired 14 shots, aggressive tackles and timely slides by Seattle helped stifle their attack.
“We said from Day 1 when we met up that we want to be hard to beat, and I think we proved that tonight,” Harvey said. “Part of that is being gritty and determined.”
Chicago had two clear chances to pull ahead late in the first half. First, a driving corner was snatched by Betos an instant before a Chicago attacker would have headed the ball into the back of the net. In stoppage time, the Reign defense left Lauren Fowkles unmarked in the box on a free kick, but the long pass sailed inches above her head.
US national team midfielder Shannon Boxx joined the Red Stars on Tuesday, and she entered as a second-half substitute. Wearing bright pink cleats, Boxx helped Chicago push forward even more, but Betos was the game’s true star. When Alyssa Mautz created her own opportunity early in the half with a long shot, the keeper barely managed to deflect it over the crossbar. And in the 62nd minute, Betos dove to her left to parry away Jessica McDonald’s 18-yard effort. The netminder completed a trifecta of impressive saves minutes later with a full-stretch denial of a Chalupny laser that looked destined for the back netting.
“We created three really good chances,” said Chicago coach Rory Dames. “(Betos) made three great saves.”
Betos could do little in the 74th minute after a frantic scrum in the box ended with the ball settled at Mautz’s feet. But in either side’s best chance at a winner in the final stage of the game, the midfielder couldn’t poke the contested effort into the net and skied it over the empty goal.
SEA - Christine Nairn (Liz Bogus) 10’
CHI – Lori Chalupny (Ella Masar) 19’
CHI – GK Erin McLeod, Rachel Quon, Michelle Wenino, Taryn Hemmings, Lydia Vandenbergh, Lori Chalupny, Leslie Osborne, Zakiya Bywaters (Shannon Boxx 46’), Alyssa Mautz, Ella Masar (Maribel Dominguez 83’), Lauren Fowlkes (Jessica McDonald 46’)
SEA – GK Michelle Betos, Jenny Ruiz, Emily Zurrer, Katie Deines, Lauren Barnes, Jessica Fishlock (Kristen Meier 91’), Kaylyn Kyle, Keelin Winters, Kiersten Dallstream (Lindsey Patterson 57’), Christine Nairn, Liz Bogus (Teresa Noyola 62’)
CHI – Leslie Osborne 17’ (Yellow Card)
SEA – Jessica Fishlock 35’ (Yellow Card)
SEA – Kaylyn Kyle 81’ (Yellow Card)