The Chicago Red Stars kicked off their 2021 campaign with a 0-0 draw against the Houston Dash in a contest that marked both teams' first match of this year's Challenge Cup.
It was easy to see that it was the first game for both clubs as players made sloppy mistakes and struggled to be clinical in the final third. Tired legs also became apparent in the latter stages as the match went out with a whimper.
Some new faces made appearances for the Red Stars, including goalkeeper Cassie Miller, who took the place of regular starter Alyssa Naeher, who is on international duty with the national team along with Julie Ertz. However, Miller impressed as the Florida State standout commanded the penalty in a calm, collected manner during her NWSL debut.
Red Stars With Better Chances But Nothing To Show For It
Both teams came out of the box slowly but it was the Red Stars that grew into the game first. An effective Chicago press forced Houston into multiple unforced errors and put the home team on the back foot.
It was Kealia Watt who really impressed for Chicago as the midfielder formed a great partnership with defender Casey Krueger down the right-hand side, which caused the Dash many problems. Watt could not get on the scoresheet herself but she did create what would be the best chance of the game.
Watt's cross met the foot of Sarah Luebbert who forced Dash goalkeeper Lindsey Harris to make an excellent diving save.
But even though the Red Stars outshot the Dash 5-1 in the first half, they could not create any real chances besides the Luebbert shot. Sloppy play in the midfield and a lack of a clinical performance by striker Katie Johnson kept the Red Stars sputtering in the mud.
Same Story in the Second Half
The Red Stars did come out of the second half the better side once again and probably had their best spell of the game during the first ten minutes of the half.
Vanessa DiBernardo had an effective match throughout and generated the best chance of the second half when a Watt cross ping-ponged around in the box and fell to the midfielder's foot. However, DiBernardo's touch was just off the mark, the ball slid away, and the Dash cleared.
Houston made their own statement in the latter part of the match and came alive after the 60th minute. A swift counter-attack resulted in what the Dash thought was the opening goal via Veronica Latsko. However, the Houston forward was deemed a yard offside and the match remained scoreless.
The last 20 minutes or so saw some sloppy play by both sides. Tired legs began to hinder the performance and the humid Houston weather resulted in some player cramping. By the end, both teams seemed to be happy with a point and that is what both sides received.
Woman of the Match
My woman of the match was Kealia Watt. The forward was dangerous on the right-hand side and provided the two best chances of the game.
What's On Tap Next?
The Red Stars return to Chicago as they continue their Challenge Cup schedule, facing the Portland Thorns on April 15th. The game kicks off at 6:30 PM CT and can be seen on Paramount+ in the US and internationally on Twitch.