NWSL Challenge Cup: Katie Johnson nets late equalizer as Chicago Red Stars and Kansas City play to 1-1 draw

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Red Stars’ scoreless streak finally came to an end as Katie Johnson added a little extra drama.

Johnson scored in the 82nd minute to salvage a 1-1 draw against Kansas City in a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Challenge Cup match at SeatGeek Stadium on Wednesday.

Chicago has played in three Challenge Cup games and it was their first goal of the competition. 

“I think I could have probably put one in during the first half,” said Johnson, who came off the bench and is still fighting for a starting spot up front. “I’m glad I got a goal to start the season.”

Kansas City veteran striker Amy Rodriguez scored just two minutes before Johnson hit the equalizer. 

The two sides started the match trying to avoid last place in the Challenge Cup west division standings, as each club welcomed the return of their international players from the FIFA window. Mallory Pugh got her first start for Chicago after working back from a minor muscle injury. 

Despite their scoreless streak, the Red Stars controlled the attacking tempo in the first half and outmatched their opposition in offensive statistics.

Chicago made an early planned substitute bringing on Johnson for Pugh in the 35th minute, but the two clubs entered halftime 0-0. Kansas City tried to level the match tempo and pressured Chicago in the early minutes of the second half. They couldn’t break through against an organized Red Stars back line side until a quick shift in the final 10 minutes changed the game. 

Kansas City broke the scoreless draught in the 80th minute as Rodriguez found the net after a breakdown of communication between Alyssa Naeher and Sarah Gorden.

Gorden took responsibility for the gaffe after the match.

“It was honestly just a miscommunication,” she said. “I thought I heard Alyssa say ‘let it go,’ and as you guys probably saw the ball wasn’t really skipping today. So I should have, you know, continued on the play, but it was really just a miscommunication. It was my fault as I should have kept going. It won’t happen again.”

Chicago responded with a goal just two minutes later, as Johnson connected for the equalizer. 

“My goal was just to come in and try to watch what was going on, and see the movements and hopefully adjust and make a difference,” Johnson said. “I think I did that.”

The goal was Chicago’s first of the competition after leading their matches in attacking statistics. The team is likely out of contention for the top spot in the west division, with only two points in three games. Portland Thorns FC lead the group.

Chicago coach Rory Dames like what he saw from Johnson.

“Katie has been really good this year so it was good to see her get rewarded,” he said. “There’s six players fighting for front spots regardless if we play with two or three, and I think Katie’s done very well for herself so far. She has put herself in contention to be in the first 11 when we get into May for the regular season.”

Look Ahead

The draw means Kansas City now sits in last place in the west division standings, while Chicago sits in third place with two points. Portland Thorns FC currently lead the group with six points. Chicago will play their final Challenge Cup match on the road against OL Reign on April 27. Kansas City play Houston Dash on April 26.

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