BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Sam Kerr was at the source of almost everything dangerous from the Chicago Red Stars, but it took until the last few minutes of the game for her to get an important goal for her team.
Yuki Nagasato intercepted a Michelle Betos goal kick with a header and found a wide open Kerr. The Australian buried the breakaway in the 87th minute.
It was the only goal of the game. The Red Stars beat the Seattle Reign 1-0 at Toyota Park. The win gave the Red Stars a crucial three points as the NWSL playoff race heads to the final stretch.
“I’m pumped,” Kerr said. “I feel happy and it’s always nice to score in the last few minutes.”
The Red Stars stayed in fourth place with the win and earned some separation above the chasing pack. Portland is five points behind in fifth place. The Red Stars are within a point of Seattle and tied with Orlando with 28 points.
The Red Stars have two home games left, coming in the next two matches, followed by four on the road to close the season. Points in these final home matches will be crucial if the Red Stars are to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
“Huge,” Kerr said of the importance of the win. “Six-point game so that’s huge for us. I think it kind of sends a message to everyone else that we’ve got our team back and we’re ready to go now.”
Three Red Stars, Vanessa DiBernardo, Casey Short and Morgan Brian, had been on the way back to full fitness since coming off injury. Saturday was the first 90-minute games of the season for DiBernardo and Brian and the second for Short.
There was a scary moment in the 35th minute when Red Stars defender Arin Gilliland stayed down for several minutes after a collision. Steph Catley crashed into her going for a header and Gilliland head jerked without contact to her head.
Gilliland was carted off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
“She was responsive,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “She passed all the tests. She didn’t hit heads. She hurt her neck on the contact of it so she was a little frantic when they got out to her. Once she settled down and settled in, she was OK. The doctor didn’t want to mess with it.
“She was responsive. She could move all of her limbs. I think it just scared her and, honestly, it scared us.”
Midfielder Danielle Colaprico also left the game in the second half for the Red Stars after hitting her head. Dames said she had a headache so they took her out.
Seattle remains in good shape to make the playoffs, but was hoping to get at least a point on the road.
“I think we’re in a good place still, a really good place,” Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. “Next game against Orlando will be a big one for us as a group so we need to make sure we’re focused for that. Overall, I think that we’ve put ourselves in a good position to kind of push on.”