Chicago Red Stars, Always Better Against The Best, Play Bay Area to Draw

John HowellAnalyst IAugust 8, 2010

HAYWARD, Calif. -- (August 7, 2010) Explain this: The Chicago Red Stars have held their own against the WPS league leading club, with a loss, a win, and a draw. The Bay Area's FC Gold Pride is ten points ahead of their closest challenger, yet Chicago has played them more or less evenly in a three game series.

At the same time, the Red Stars have been unable to defeat last place Atlanta Beat, losing twice and tying twice.

Fortunately, Chicago will not face Atlanta again, but will face Gold Pride once more as the Red Stars hit the home stretch of their second season, in the thick of the playoff race.   

Tonight, the Red Stars and FC Gold Pride played to a scoreless draw at Pioneer Stadium.

Red Stars goalkeeper Jillian Loyden (pictured above) made four saves for her fifth clean sheet of the season. Her counterpart, Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, made five saves for her league-leading sixth shutout.

Scoring chances were few and far between for either the Red Stars and Gold Pride. But there were some opportunities for both squads.

The Red Stars' optimal chance came in the 56th minute when Cristiane's strike inside the box went directly to Barnhart for the save. Barnhart turned away several other opportunities, but for the majority of the match Chicago relied on deep shots outside of the box. The Red Stars did manage to out-shoot Gold Pride by an 8-7 margin.

The most dangerous chance for either team in the first half came in the 41st minute. Gold Pride's Kelly O'Hara had a low header at close range, but Loyden reached down for the stop and kept the match scoreless heading into halftime.

Chicago's newest acquisition, Spanish international forward Veronica Boquete, made her Red Stars debut when she was brought in for Brazilian forward Cristiane in the 80th minute.

With the draw, Chicago (5-8-6) holds a fourth-place tie in the WPS standings. Sky Blue FC defeated the Atlanta Beat earlier in the day, 2-1, as Chicago and New Jersey share fourth with 21 points apiece. The Red Stars previously were tied with the Washington Freedom. Gold Pride (12-3-3) picks up a point and now has 39 for the season.

The Red Stars also surpassed their points total last season (20 points in 2009).

Next up for the Red Stars is a 7:30 p.m. match on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Independence at Toyota Park. Philadelphia is the exception to the rule cited at the opening of this article. Chicago has lost both meetings with the super-expansion team. Despite being in their first season, the Independence has a solid hold on second place.

Including Wednesday's match, the Red Stars face Philadelphia twice in the final stretch, both at home in Toyota Park. They need to win at least one of the two, and a majority of the five remaining games to remain in playoff contention.

Four of Chicago's five final regular-season matches take place at home.

Chicago Red Stars (5-8-6) at FC Gold Pride (12-3-3)
August 7, 2010 -- Hayward, Calif., Pioneer Stadium
Red Stars 0, Gold Pride 0
Red Stars    0   0  -  0
Gold Pride   0   0  -  0

Red Stars: Loyden (GK), Dalmy, Engen, Markgraf, Spilger, K. Chapman, Formiga, Carney (Nogueira, 46), Rapinoe, Cristiane (Boquete, 80), Masar (Sitch, 89).
Gold Pride: Barnhart (GK), Wilson, C. Chapman, Buehler, Riley, Boxx, Edwards, Milbrett (Abily, 46), O'Hara, Sinclair, Marta.
Red Stars 8, Gold Pride 7
Shots on goal: Red Stars 5, Gold Pride 4
Saves: Red Stars 4, Gold Pride 5
Corner kicks: Red Stars 2, Gold Pride 6
Offsides: Red Stars 7, Gold Pride 4
Fouls: Red Stars 10, Gold Pride 10
Cautions and ejections:
62nd minute -- Kandace Wilson, yellow card
85th minute -- Kelley O'Hara, yellow card
Referee: Ted Unkel
Assistant referees: Colin Arblaster, Mike Kampmeinert
Fourth official: Maurizio Laudani
Attendance: 2,740