PORTLAND — Turns out, Saturday was the Stars day at Jeld-Wen Field.
With Portland Thorns FC missing its four national team standouts, the Chicago Red Stars took advantage of an opportunity to post their first National Women’s Soccer League win.
Zakiya Bywaters and Jackie Santacaterina scored goals and Chicago frustrated Portland with its aggressive defending in a 2-0 win for the visitors in front of 12,446 fans.
“Chicago, I thought played really well,” Thorns coach Cindy Parlow Cone said. “They moved the ball really well and defended hard. And we didn’t necessarily do what we needed to do attack wise.”
Portland was without top attackers Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, along with defender Rachel Buehler and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. Those four figure to be in action on Sunday when the United States takes on Canada in a friendly match in Toronto.
The four are expected back on Thursday when Portland (6-2-1) hosts Kansas City.
After an encouraging first 30 minutes on Saturday, the Thorns attack disappeared after the Red Stars (1-4-2) broke through on a corner kick.
“They hadn’t won a game yet, so they were coming in here with nothing to lose,” Thorns midfielder Becky Edwards said. “They were physical. I thought we fought back, but at times we didn’t get to second balls first, we didn’t get to those first balls first.”
Minus her four national team mainstays, Parlow Cone gave forward Danielle Foxhoven, midfielder Courtney Wetzel and defender Jazmyne Avant their first starts of the season. Also, former Portland State goalkeeper Cris Lewis, playing under an amateur contract, started in goal.
“I thought the players who don’t usually play stepped up and played very well,” Parlow Cone said.
Shots were 10-8 Chicago, and Portland actually was credited with four shots on goal while the Red Stars’ only shots on goal ended up in the goal. But the only real scoring chance for the Thorns came in the 32nd minute, when Meleana Shin’s shot from the right side of the penalty area was right at goalkeeper Taylor Vancil.
“The game happens so fast, and for a lot of our girls who haven’t had the experience that Alex Morgan or Christine Sinclair have at this level, maybe we were a step behind or off a little bit,” Foxhoven said.
As the game progressed, Portland seemed to grow more frustrated with Chicago’s aggressive play.
Parlow Cone said she wasn’t allowed to comment on the officiating, and she didn’t know why referee Christina Unkel dismissed Thorns assistant coach John Galas in the second half.
“I thought it was a hard fought game, not dirty by any means by either team, just both teams going after it,” Parlow Cone said.
Both Foxhoven and Edwards said Chicago’s physical play was a factor, but that such challenges come with professional soccer.
“A physical game always throws you off a little bit. I think it throws both teams off a little bit,” Foxhoven said. “It’s definitely frustrating, but it comes with the game. … Not every day is going to be beautiful.”