It may have only been a draw but it felt like a win for the Chicago Red Stars as they battled their way back against FC Kansas City with a late dramatic comeback to earn a 3-3 tie at Benedictine Sports Complex Sunday afternoon. Despite early setbacks and late game drama, the Red Stars exhibited determination in a comeback worthy of more then just a point.
The attack started early for Chicago as they applied pressure to the Blues defense but left gaps in their own back line that Kansas City took advantage of in the 17th minute.
Melissa Henderson found Erika Tymrak splitting two Red Star defenders and played her a through ball that keeper Erin McLeod was forced to come out and smother. She gave up a rebound that fell to the top of the 18 and a waiting Lauren Holiday who slotted the ball into an empty net. It was her first goal as a Holiday but her ninth on the season.
The game relaxed into a rhythm with both teams building the attack but not finding open opportunities on net. The Blues appeared to be going into halftime with the 1-0 lead but both sides saw a goal in the last five minutes of the half.
Mexican International Maribel Dominquez was still searching for her first goal of the season going into Sunday’s match and found it in the 41st minute. From 32 yards out Dominquez collected a pass from Juliana Stich and took a touch to move around her defender. With the space she created for herself, she lobbed a curling shot past an outstretched Nicole Barnhart that hit upper 90 for the equalizer.
Two minutes later Chicago would put the ball in the net again, expect this time on the wrong goal. Kristie Mewis rocketed a shot from the left side of the 18 that bounced off the crossbar and hit Chicago defender Taryn Hemmings’s foot on the way down. The deflection into the net gave the Blues back their lead going into the half.
Chicago opened the second half with more offensive pressure. They were down on the board in shots and goals and hoped for an early equalizer in the draining Chicago heat. Still unable to find a second goal coach Rory Dames went to the bench with his second leading scorer, Ella Masar and aggressive defender Jackie Santacaterina. Masar made her presence felt in he 70th minute when her shot hit off the cross bar earned the Red Stars a corner. Off the corner, Santacaterina’s header appeared to be heading for goal when Canadian international Desiree Scott saved the ball off the line and preserved the lead.
In the 87th minute Kansas City scored what they hoped would be the final goal of the game. On the counterattack the Blues had the numbers going 4 v 1 with defender Hemmings. Holiday recorded an assist when she slotted a short pass to Tymrak, who then chipped her shot over McLeod for a 3-1 lead.
Hemmings would go down on the play and not return leaving Chicago to play with 10 for the rest of the game, as the Red Stars used all three subs.
The Red Stars would not take their first home loss in over a month and quickly worked the ball up the left flank to earn a free kick in the 90th minute. Ella Masar broke away from her defender to get her head on the ball sending it into the side netting giving the Red Stars life in a late game surge.
With five minutes of stoppage time Chicago had was given the opportunity for another equalizer, and took all five minutes to find it. “At the death”, Adriana Leon sent a wild cross into the 18 that Masar was able to volley back to Lori Chalupny at the top of the box. Her goal saved a point for the Red Stars in the dramatic comeback that tied the game at 3 all.
“The confidence that we gain coming back against a great opponent like that is priceless,” Chalupny said after the match.
Her coach reiterated the same sentiments.
“I’m proud of the fact that they fought back and did what they did today,” said Head Coach Rory Dames. “The team survives and competes because they depend on each other.”
All that was left was for the Blues to restart before the whistle was blown seconds later.
With a draw Kansas City extends their unbeaten streak to 6 games and hopes to continue with two home games in the coming week starting Sunday July 20, against the Seattle Reign.
Chicago remains one point behind the Breakers and will take on the Washington Spirit at home on July 20.