The Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC put in a performance akin to trying to keep dominoes upright on a train moving over the Rocky Mountains on Wednesday night. Sloppy positioning, fumbles and a lack of dedication was a persistent theme until the final 20 minutes when Sophie Schmidt and Alyssa Mautz exchanged goals for a 1-1 draw.
The Chicago Red Stars broke free from their past, adopting a new style of play by storming the field with aggression and possession. With less than ten minutes underway, they threatened to take the lead with Lauren Fowlkes running on to a perfect six yard cross but missing the net. Sky Blue responded with a promising opportunity that was thwarted by Erin McLeod following a back pass from Lisa De Vanna to Monica Ocampo, but McLeod refused to be a sitting duck and moved off her line to pounce on the ball.
Late in the first half Ella Masar would find an opening behind the SBFC defenders to take a well-struck shot which climbed over the crossbar. If the ball was better controlled, it would have posed a problem for goalkeeper Brittany Cameron to keep it out of the net.
Sky Blue was disappointing in the first half due to their disconnected play. Arguably the players were occupied with balancing their footing on a slippery pitch but the distraction prevented strong plays from developing. There was no creativity on the ball in the first half, forcing drastic measures from the likes of De Vanna, who went fishing for free kicks rather than trying to link up play.
De Vanna is regularly supported by Kelley O'Hara but with O'Hara out for the first half, De Vanna had very little opportunity to connect with any player up front who could match her speed or read her intentions. Chicago did well at dispossessing and marking Danesha Adams rendering her unable to step up for the front line.
This game proved that Sky Blue cannot afford to play without O'Hara, who influenced their offensive attacks, shots on goal, crosses into the box and headers inside the box. O'Hara stepped in at the start of the second half and immediately supplied the threatening and commanding presence that SBFC lacked in the first half.
The second half intensified in the final 20 minutes. Masar found a pocket in the box to sneak a header into the upper half of the net but missed. The 74th minute saw a pair of chances for O'Hara to get Sky Blue on the board from two separate crosses by Adams and Schmidt but she could not capitalize. The remainder of the match saw the match pinball from one end to the other, with both sides finding opportunities on the goal. Chalupny in the 80th minute sent a 25 yard strike over the crossbar. Another O'Hara opportunity in the box was deflected by McLeod in the 81st minute.
Sky Blue would find a different avenue into the box with Caitlin Foord forming a powerful charge into the center surpassing four Chicago defenders into the box but her strike was pushed out by the crossbar and relieved of its momentum.
The opening goal for Sky Blue was created by a cross from Kendall Johnson to find Sophie Schmidt sitting slightly to the side of Erin McLeod, freeing her up to direct the ball with her head into the back of the net. SBFC would only enjoy the lead for four short minutes until Alyssa Mautz scored on Cameron off a corner kick.