Despite a goalkeeping clinic from Nicole Barnhart, the Chicago Red Stars were still able to capture an impressive 2-0 victory over Utah Royals FC on Saturday night at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.
Samantha Kerr scored early on in the game for the Red Stars, and Brooke Elby added an insurance goal late in the contest to seal the shutout victory.
The victory vaults the Red Stars back into third place on the National Women’s Soccer League table and into a tie with Portland Thorns FC, although the Thorns currently have the tiebreaker.
The Red Stars got off to a rollicking start in the fifth minute of action, as Kerr scored to give her team the early lead. After Casey Short cut to the middle of the pitch and lofted in a perfect crossing pass, Kerr headed the ball on net, where Barnhart made a remarkable save. Kerr then collected the rebound and knocked in the easy rebound goal to put her squad up by a goal.
The Red Stars pressed hard out of the half time break to extend their lead, but Barnhart continued her strong play. In the 64th minute, Kerr collected a tremendous pass near the box, but when she attempted a curling shot toward the net, Barnhart broke off her line and made a remarkable one-handed stop to push the ball wide and keep Utah within striking distance.
That all changed in the 85th minute, as Elby scored a critical insurance goal to seal the victory. After Savannah McCaskill’s bid for a goal was denied by Barnhart, Elby put home the rebound for her second goal of the season to give the Red Stars a 2-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
The third-place Red Stars will next take the pitch on Aug. 10 when they head to Maryland to take on the Washington Spirit. Kick-off for the game is set for 6 p.m.