For the third time in two weeks, the Red Stars fell behind early against the Portland Thorns.
And for the third time, they rallied late to salvage a tie.
But the Red Stars were not happy with Thursday night’s 1-1 tie at Benedictine University. Even though defending NWSL champion Portland is a star-studded, experienced team, the Red Stars felt like they missed an opportunity.
“We’re definitely disappointed,” Red Stars goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc said. “Whenever you’re at home you want the three points. There’s no way we’re satisfied with a point tonight.”
That’s because the result left both squads tied for the final playoff spot with identical records of 7-6-5 and 26 points with six games left. The Thorns have an edge in goal differential.
Portland grabbed the early edge when Jess McDonald scored off a cross from Stephanie Catley just 37 seconds into the game. It was the fastest goal in NWSL history.
“We still have too many young players that check out and unfortunately in that sequence we checked out early and made three big mistakes and paid for it,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said.
But after that, the Red Stars had the advantage in quality chances. They forced nine corner kicks, including eight by Naperville native Vanessa DiBernardo, but didn’t get the equalizer until Lori Chalupny scored off a goal-mouth scramble in the 77th minute.
Chicago turned up the heat at the end but Portland goalkeeper Nadine Angerer made two diving saves on Christen Press. Press also missed an open eight-yarder in stoppage time, and Jen Hoy and Zakiya Bywaters were unable to get a shot off on a 2-on-0 breakaway.
Angerer, the captain of the German national team who was the 2013 FIFA World Player of the Year, finished with six saves, including an acrobatic effort in the 69th minute in which she was caught off her line after a wayward clearance but raced back in time to tip Alyssa Mautz’s 35-yard shot over the crossbar.
“We definitely had a lot of good chances and it was great that we came back and tied it, but we also would have liked to win,” said DiBernardo, who was subbed for in the 73rd minute. “We had those chances and hopefully in the future we can just put those away.”
The Red Stars have a four-game unbeaten streak but that includes just one victory, which is causing Dames consternation.
“That’s the second game in a row [against Portland] that we’ve put ourselves in a position to win the game late,” Dames said. “It’s the second game in a row we’ve had the ball on the right people’s feet in and the right chances and it’s the second game in a row they haven’t even put their shots on goal.
“There’s got to be a level of accountability for that, and until all of the players decide that this is the priority of what we’re trying to do, that will continue to happen. They didn’t come through tonight but I feel pretty confident they’ll come through in the next six because tonight will stick with them a bit.”
Indeed, the Red Stars know every point is crucial with only a month left in the regular season. After a trip to first place Seattle on Sunday, they play four of their last five games at home.
“I think every game that we go into we’re wanting to win and get those three points,” DiBernardo said. “I think we’re capable of doing that and that’s just going to be our mindset for the rest of the season.”