CHICAGO – While they had their ups and downs in the 2021 National Women’s Soccer League season, there was one thing that stayed constant about the Chicago Red Stars.
When they played a game at SeatGeek Stadium, they were usually pretty successful.
The club was 8-2-2 during 12 home matches on Bridgeview this year, with their 26 points being the most earned at home by an NWSL team in 2021. It’s a big reason why the Red Stars had the chance to play in front of the home fans as the quarterfinals began on Sunday, and like all season, they were quick to take advantage.
As they have all season long, the group got a strong performance by the defense and a key contribution from their MVP finalist to beat NJ/NY Gotham FC 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at SeatGeek Stadium. It gave the franchise their second postseason win in history as they advanced to the semifinals to face the Portland Thorns on the road this Sunday.
A crowd of 7,027, the largest of the season, were there to watch it in Bridgeview, providing the atmosphere and energy for the Red Stars to advance to the NWSL’s “Final Four.”
“We were just so happy to be at home today in general, have home-field advantage with this crowds.” said goalkeeper Cassie Miller. “It was insane. I think 7,000 fans? Me, personally, I haven’t played in front of that. It was fun. It was exciting.”
In the 61st minute, Mallory Pugh got the only goal the home team would need as she took a pass from Sarah Woldmoe on the left side of the goal and put it in for the winning score. Including the NWSL Challenge Cup, it’s the sixth goal of the year for Pugh, who was named a finalist for league MVP on Friday.
Miller and the defense took care of business on the afternoon, limiting Gotham FC to seven shots and just two on goal while two others were blocked. It’s the fifth clean sheet of the season for the goalkeeper as the Red Stars have yielded just one goal in their last four games, all of which have been wins.
The team also did so in what would turn out to be United States soccer legend Carli Lloyd’s final professional game after she announced she would retire after Gotham FC’s final game. She was held to just one shot on goal for the afternoon.
“It was a big concern for us and we had multiple conversations about it, but ultimately we kind wanted to have our midfielders be aware of her and we knew that at times we’re gonna have to go against her ‘1-v-1’ whatever it is and we were ready for the challenge,” said defender Sarah Gorden, who was named a finalist for NWSL Defender of the Year this week. “It’s always an honor to play against her. She’s a legend and there are very few who will be like that.”
But the Red Stars had an answer like always when they played an opponent at SeatGeek Stadium in 2021, and it’s kept their hopes for an NWSL Championship alive for another week.