By Sye Bennefield Jr.
The only thing hotter than Christen Press Saturday afternoon was the Toyota Park grounds as the Chicago Red Stars defeated the Orlando Pride 2-1.
Press netted a brace for the Red Stars (8-3-4, 28 points) as temperatures were as high as 91 degrees with humidity. Head referee Farhad Dadkho stopped the contest so players could hydrate and cool down.
Yet, that hardly bothered Press as she opened up the scoring in the 29th minute with a lovely Sofia Huerta ball over the top of the Pride’s back line.
Orlando goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe attempted to come off her line but Press calmly rounded her and scored.
“I actually felt like I was playing pretty off, my touch was off,” said Press. “Sometimes when that happens, I just tend to stay a little bit higher and poach goals to try and alleviate pressure from the team.”
Although Orlando (5-6-4, 19 points) dominated possession in the first half, they struggled linking up in the final third. In the 37th minute, a Camila Pereira cross was met with an Alex Morgan header on goal, but Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher deflected the header for a corner kick.
“Alyssa is one of the best goalkeepers, if not the best in the world,” said Morgan, “She made an amazing save, I thought I had for sure a goal with the header, but she’s just a great goalkeeper and I love playing with her.”
It didn’t take long for the Red Stars to double their advantaged in the second half. Seven minutes in after Pride defender Ali Krieger turned over the ball, Chicago forward Jennifer Hoy sent Press on goal for her second of the match.
During stoppage, Orlando midfielder Alanna Kennedy got one past Naeher but it ultimately was for naught.
In the final minutes of the match, Red Stars midfielder Alyssa Mautz entered the game, earning her 100th appearance. She became the first player to achieve this feat in club history.
The Red Stars again will face off against the Pride on Aug. 5 in Orlando.