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Independence earn crucial road win in Chicago

Coming off of two games with no goals, Amy Rodriguez put the Independence ahead of Chicago Red Stars in the 53rd minute after a scoreless first half.

Only nine minutes later, Ella Masar headed a bending cross from Casey Noguiera past Independence keeper Karina LeBlanc to bring Chicago level.

Fifteen minutes after coming on in the 63rd minute, Lianne Sanderson converted a free kick from 20 yards out to give the lead back to Philadelphia. The free kick had been awarded following a foul on Rodriguez that earned Chicago defender Natalie Spilger a yellow card.

“We’re not a very good team when we go down a goal, based on records,” Red Stars coach Omid Namazi said. “We’re very good when we go up.”

The win puts the Independence solidly in second place in the league, five points ahead of Boston Breakers with five games remaining before the playoffs.

The first half of this very physical encounter featured a great deal of play in the middle of the field between two evenly matched sides. Two Chicago players were forced to leave the match with injuries, defender Kate Markgraf with an apparent concussion and Julianne Sitch with a possible torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The first scoring opportunity came in the 11th minute when Megan Rapinoe’s shot forced a LeBlanc save.

Rapinoe worked hard to contain Independence defender Holmfridur Magnusdottir, who had scored both Independence goals in Sunday’s match against third place Boston Breakers. Still Magnusdottir was able to get forward in the 36th minute to blast a shot that forced a save from the Chicago keeper.

Ten minutes after Chicago equalized in the second half, a Nogueira free kick from 25 yards out nearly gave Chicago the lead. LeBlanc’s athletic save lead to a corner kick that threateningly skipped through the Independence defense, but LeBlanc was able to smother the ball.

Sanderson’s goal was not without controversy as Namazi felt she had not been called for offside prior to the foul on Rodriguez.

“We fought, we came back and had the momentum going,” the Red Stars coach Omid said, “then one obviously bad call (a missed call on Sanderson) changed the momentum of the game.” He added, “I don’t want to use that as as excuse. We have to be better than that and take the initiative and score the first goal.”

Independence General Manager Louise Waxler said after the match, “As we near the end of the season, every game is crucial in the race for the playoffs…Getting three points on the road against a tough Chicago team was huge for Philadelphia, and we’ve put ourselves in a good position heading into the weekend. We’re very happy with tonight’s result.”

The Independence will play their fourth match in two weeks on Sunday, August 15, when they host Atlanta Breakers at John A Farrell Stadium in West Chester. Kickoff is at 6pm.

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