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Chicago Red Stars earn first win of 2019, defeat Reign FC 3-0

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. —  Every meeting in history between the Chicago Red Stars and Reign FC had been decided by one goal, if not a draw. That ended Sunday, when Chicago (1-0-2, 5 points) edged Reign FC (0-1-2, 2 points) 3-0 in a National Women’s Soccer League match at SeatGeek Stadium. The Red Stars’ Casey Short, Yuki Nagasato and Brooke Elby scored during the match, which was played a day later than originally scheduled due to a snowstorm in the Chicago area.

The Red Stars’ defense also earned its first clean sheet in 2019, keeping Reign’s total goal tally for the season at just two. Tierna Davidson paired with Short as the Red Stars’ fullbacks, while Katie Naughton and Sarah Gorden started as Chicago’s centerbacks. It was Gorden’s first appearance of the season and Davidson’s first at left back. They succeeded in holding off Reign attackers Jaycie Johnson and Sheam Groom.

“A [clean sheet] means a lot because we worked on a couple of things this week to ensure that we kept that clean sheet today,” Davidson said after the game. “We worked on communication throughout the back line during training this week— dropping and stepping, covering each other. We paid more attention to that.”

That back line absorbed pressure for the first 10 minutes, playing mostly in its own half and conceding three shots between the 4th and 6th minutes. After that, Chicago’s wingers — Katie Johnson and Nagasato — began tracking back to help. The teams combined for 16 shots total — Reign FC had six on target and Chicago had eight.

Statistically, Reign didn’t back off in the second half, despite the Red Stars taking hold of the momentum after Short’s goal early on. Groom and forward Jodie Taylor had their shots on goal blocked back to back in the 59th minute. Reign’s final shot on target came five minutes later from midfielder Bethany Balcer, who scored one of the Reign’s two goals this season.

Reign coach Vlatko Andonovski was not pleased.

When asked about Reign’s two points in three matches played, he said: “What concerns me is the way we played today. I was actually happy about the way we played against Orlando [last week]. I don’t look at the standings, the points. I don’t look at the results. It’s the process that I’m focused on. I don’t think things that we’ve worked on went well for us today. That’s a concern to me.”

Nagasato, again, was paramount in Chicago’s scoring chances, in addition to last season’s NWSL leading scorer and Australian international, Sam Kerr.

In the 13th minute, starting with a Red Stars throw-in, midfielder Danielle Colaprico collected the ball on the left flank near the halfway line and quickly found Johnson, who made a half-turn and belted the ball across the field to find Short. Beaming down the right-hand side, Short found the ball in stride and dribbled into Reign’s penalty box.

Without a defender in white closing her down, Short lobbed the ball over Reign FC goalkeeper Lydia Williams and it rolled into the left side netting for the Red Stars’ first goal of the match and Short’s first of the 2019 season.

Nagasato, who scored twice against the Portland Thorns April 20, continued with a breakaway goal in the 53rd minute after Williams failed to clear the ball. The deflected clearance fell to Nagasato on the right side of the 18-yard box. The Japanese international chipped the ball into goal.

Johnson was subbed off in the 89th minute. Her replacement, Elby, made her first appearance of the season. Seconds later, after a frenzy in the penalty box, Elby quickly reacted and tapped the ball into the net with her right foot.

“I heard [Red Stars coach] Rory [Dames] screaming at me to get up the field, and I naturally don’t play in the 7 or 11 role, so it was exciting for me to get up the field and involved in the play,” Elby said. “I got a touch and I looked up and saw that it was just me and the goalkeeper. I saw the opening right between her legs and toe-poked it, so you can see my shooting skills at work.”

Chicago will now travel to face the Utah Royals May 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium at 9:30 p.m. ET. The Royals (2-0-0, 6 points) sit atop the standings after traveling beating the Orlando Pride 1-0 Saturday. Former Red Stars player Christen Press scored the lone goal.

Dames said for a second consecutive game that his team is continuing what they started in 2018.

“There’s a good vibe around the group, picking up where we left off last year,” Dames said. “But I think the quality of our play— based off the standards that we set, we definitely still have some work to do.”

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