Chicago Red Stars midfielder Leslie Osborne hoped to make her homecoming a successful one by defeating the Boston Breakers on Saturday, May 4th. These plans were spoiled, however, by an offensive explosion that set many NWSL records.
Osborne, who played with the Breakers for three years before signing with the Red Stars in the off-season, described her return by saying, “I love this city (and) the people. Playing here brings back a lot of memories. (I’m) just proud to be a part of it for three years. I made a decision that I feel pretty good with and I’m glad to be on Chicago.”
With her Boston years behind her, Osborne hoped to lead her new team to their first victory of the season. The Red Stars pressed early with Zakiya Bywaters and Maribel Dominguez causing the defense headaches by towing the offside line well. In the 10th minute, Dominguez was provided with a great opportunity to put her team ahead but she mistimed the header and the chance sailed over the net.
Chicago’s momentum vanished in the 20th minute when Katie Schoepfer scored her first goal of the campaign with a far post strike that beat Chicago goalkeeper Erin McLeod. The play started with Sydney Leroux making a forward pass to Lianne Sanderson who then put Schoepfer behind the defense.
“I don’t think there’s anything like scoring in front of your home fans,” Schoepfer said. “I thought it was a big goal for the team and a big goal for the game, and I was excited to score it.”
The Breakers would double their lead in the 26th minute when Sydney Leroux cleaned up a Mariah Nogueira header. The goal began with a short, quick corner that allowed Heather O’Reilly to put a dangerous ball into the box. While Nogueira made contact first, Leroux knew that her chance was going wide and did well to provide the final touch.
Nogueira described the goal by saying, “The first corner kick came in and it got kind of caught in the sun so the next one we went for a short one. HAO whipped it in. I went to flick it into the goal but it was going wide and Syd came in and tapped it in.”
Despite being down two goals, Chicago continued to push hard and challenge the Breakers’ net. This effort paid off in the 61st minute when Bywaters converted a Lori Chalupny pass to cut the lead in half. The goal put pressure on the Breakers who responded 13 minutes later with an unassisted Leroux goal.
“When we got the third goal, I thought it was the most important of the game because (Chicago) came back into it. It was 2-1 at one stage and I felt like they were getting ahead of us a little bit but obviously the third game came at the right time.”
Leroux’s night wasn’t done as she completed the hat-trick in the 84th minute. The final goal, which was assisted by substitute Kyah Simon, put Leroux into the record books at the first player to score a hat-trick in the NWSL. The game as a whole was memorable because it will serve at the first five-goal game in league history.
“You look at our team and we’re an offensive team,” explained head coach Lisa Cole. “We have all kinds of firepower then we’re anchored with Kia (McNeill) and Cat (Whitehill) in the back who are also good playmakers. Our outside backs are starting to be playmakers.”
While the Breakers’ offense will grab most of the attention, it should also be noted that the goalkeepers from both teams provided highlight reel moments. Breakers goalkeeper Ashley Phillips, who finished with three saves, made a diving stop in the 38th minute to deny Dominguez. Not to be outdone, McLeod, responsible for six saves, made back-to-back saves in the 52nd and 55th minutes that showcased her athleticism and quick reactions.
Cole complimented her goalkeeper by saying, “Ashley has been good for us. She’s been somebody that we can count on and also has been somebody that provides great leadership. She reads the game well so that’s important.”
Chicago will be disappointed with the result but there is still optimism coming from the winless club. After the game, Red Stars head coach Rory Dames commented, “Many of the goals we’re giving up are the direct result of mistakes we make, but as we continue to grow and get players experience at this level those mistakes will correct themselves.”
Chicago will hope to have those mistakes corrected by Wednesday, May 8th when they face Sky Blue FC. The Breakers next action will occur on May 11th when they travel Maryland to face the Washington Spirit.