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Soccer: Melissa Tancredi’s goal, Karina LeBlanc’s shutout lift Red Stars past Seattle

Red Stars goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc and her roommate, forward Melissa Tancredi, were talking before Saturday’s game with Seattle and came up with some off-the-wall predictions.

“We said she was going to score and I was going to get the shutout,” LeBlanc said.

That’s exactly what happened.

Tancredi tallied her first goal of the season in the eighth minute and LeBlanc made six saves behind a stellar back line as the host Red Stars stunned previously unbeaten Seattle 1-0 at Benedictine University in Lisle.

The win snapped a seven-game winless streak for Chicago (7-6-4, 25 points), which moved into fourth place in the NWSL standings. The visiting Reign (13-1-3, 42 points) still lead Kansas City by nine points for the top spot.

“Dreams come true, people,” Tancredi said. “[LeBlanc] tells me about 10 stories and that was one of them.”

Tancredi’s goal came on the Red Stars’ second chance of the game. Defender Julie Johnston sent a long ball from midfield up the right wing and over the defense to the streaking Tancredi, who tracked down the bouncing ball and blasted a 15-yard shot past Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo.

“I knew that they had a high line and I knew their team is amazing but their back four is probably the weakest part that we could exploit,” Tancredi said. “Julie read it perfectly and [sent] a great ball and I just went for a volley.”

Tancredi got a perfect bounce and struck the ball before Solo, the U.S. national team star, had a chance to set her feet.

“I knew it had it be with power to beat her, obviously,” Tancredi said. “And I knew that she would still be moving because the ball was still moving, so I just decided to hit it first time.”

The Red Stars had a couple chances to extend their lead. The first came in the 12th minute when Oswego native Julianne Sitch sent a lead pass up the left wing to Christen Press, whose hard shot was knocked around the left post by Solo.

Then in the 65th minute, Johnston had a good look at the net off a corner kick from former Waubonsie Valley star Vanessa DiBernardo, but sent her header just over the crossbar.

LeBlanc made three of her saves after that point as Seattle applied more pressure in attempt to keep its 16-game unbeaten streak alive, but Sitch and fellow midfielder Lori Chalupny did a good job of helping the defense hold Seattle threats Sydney Leroux, Jessica Fishlock and Kim Little in check.

“Fishlock and Little are very dynamic and cover a lot of ground so it made sense to let Lori and Julianne kind of sit in those spaces and sort them and I thought they were good,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said.

It was Chicago’s first win since May 28 and Sitch’s first appearance since she was suspended for two games for rough play during a 2-0 loss in Seattle on June 7.

“I think it’s just great to be back on the field,” Sitch said. “Unfortunately the suspension was rough but I’m willing to do whatever it takes for this team. If it means I [come into] a game situation like this when I haven’t played in a while, that’s what the team needs and I’m willing to do the role and help the team win a championship.”

Those hopes are still alive as the Red Stars are in contention for one of the four playoff berths with seven games remaining.

“We’re looking at the big picture,” LeBlanc said. “We want to get into the playoffs and then we want to win a championship, so this was the next step to making that happen.”

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