Soccer: Near-misses leave Red Stars in 0-0 tie with Houston

The Red Stars were fit to be tied on Saturday.

Despite a clear edge in possession and scoring chances, the Red Stars settled for a 0-0 tie with the Houston Dash at Benedictine University in Lisle.

Chicago (7-6-7, 28 points), which moved into a tie with Washington for the final playoff spot, outshot the Dash 11-2 but failed to put away several golden opportunities in the waning minutes.

The closest miss was the most controversial. A 20-yard shot from Christen Press in stoppage time hit the underside of the crossbar and came down on the goal line before being cleared.

The crowd and the Red Stars thought the ball had come down across the line but the referees ruled no goal.

“I think it hit the crossbar, came down, went in and spun out probably,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “In fairness to the referees, it’s a bang-bang play, but if it did go in, they need to get it right.

“Two of their players reacted, their heads went down and they stopped, and once the referees didn’t call anything then they reacted to go get it. That’s the difference between one point and three points.”

That could turn out to be a huge difference for the Red Stars, who would miss the playoffs if the season ended today because Washington has beaten them twice. Chicago had defeated Houston (5-10-3, 18 points) twice and figured to get three points from this one.

Instead, the Red Stars ended up with their fifth draw in the last six matches, thanks to some squandered opportunities and the play of Dash goalie Erin McLeod, who played for Chicago in 2013.

McLeod made five saves, including a leaping effort to tip a header from defender Julie Johnston over the crossbar in the 75th minute.

“I honestly thought my volley was in, but it wasn’t,” Johnston said. “She got it.”

The Red Stars missed two open shots in the first half, including a golden chance in the 37th minute when Zakiya Bywaters sent a cross to Emily Van Egmond, who knocked a five-yard shot high.

With the Dash contained, the Red Stars pressed forward in the final 25 minutes and were especially effective when midfielder Jackie Santacaterina came in for Shannon Boxx in the 66th minute.

Santacaterina, a former Geneva star, saw her first action after missing 11 games with a calf injury. She and Johnston pushed up and helped put pressure on the Houston defense.

“Honestly it kind of came down to the way they were playing,” said Johnston, who missed a 30-yarder wide in the 87th minute. “Houston was bunkering the last few minutes, so when you have so many players behind the ball, the ball kind of comes from behind the lines and we were able to get some shots off. If I have an open shot or possibility to help the team, absolutely I’m going to take it.”

Santacaterina had a couple of headers in the box cleared away and Alyssa Mautz missed a header wide.

“We were able to press in those last 15 minutes and I think we need to do that a little bit more from the get-go,” Santacaterina said. “I think we were a little bit lax when we had them pinned in their end, but it was fun to play in those last 15 minutes and go after it a bit.”

The Red Stars were without two starters in forward Jen Hoy (illness) and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo (lower back injury). DiBernardo, a Waubonsie Valley graduate, is expected back for Chicago’s road game at Washington next Saturday.

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