Athletica Triumph in Chicago
Saint Louis Athletica may not have had many opportunities during Saturday night’s WPS contest against the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park but the chances they did get they made count.
Saint Louis Athletica may not have had many opportunities during Saturday night’s WPS contest against the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park but the chances they did get they made count. And the chances the Red Stars got Athletica goalkeeper Jillian Loyden made count.

Loyden denied Chicago in the 17th minute with a dramatic save against Brazil’s Cristiane. Karen Carney struck a perfect corner kick that Cristiane headed on goal but Loyden was able to get a hand to it and push it over the top of the cross bar. The save was the first of what would prove to be a very productive night for Athletica’s deputy keeper. Loyden faced six Chicago shots on goal and turned away each one, three of which were goal bound chances.

“It was certainly a change of pace from practicing everyday,” said Loyden. “But the transition was so easy thanks to my teammates and the coaching staff. I am just on cloud nine I am so excited.”

The game stayed scoreless going into the 26th minute with very little going towards either teams net until Eniola Aluko struck. Aluko was able to use her speed on the left wing to turn the corner on Chicago’s back line. As she came in to the edge of the six-yard box she found herself one-on-one with Red Star Goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson. Aluko’s attempted pass to Kerri Hanks deflected off Ifeoma Dieke and over Jonsson before falling on the other side of the goal line.

“I was one on one with the defender and I knew if I got past her I would be in a dangerous position,” said Aluko. “I got around her and was trying to put the ball in a dangerous spot and luckily for me it deflected off of her and went in.”

From that point onward Saint Louis turned in a master class performance. An especially encouraging result considering they were without Lori Chalupny and Hope Solo (U.S. National Team duty), Melissa Tancredi (Canadian Team National Team duty), and Kia McNeill (serving a one game suspension). Chicago was without four regular starters as well, Carli Lloyd, Lindsay Tarpley , Megan Rapinoe, and Marian Dalmy. The absences of star power seemed to bother Athletica less as Saint Louis kept up the pressure and took a commanding 2-0 lead minutes before halftime.

Eniola Aluko was again involved. This time driving home a powerful right-footed shot from 10 yards out on a ball that Kendall Fletcher had struck and which fell to Aluko.

“Typical strikers goal,” stated Aluko. “Ball fell to me perfectly and I just tried to put it away.”

The goal was especially uplifting because Loyden kept Athletica ahead just minutes earlier. England’s Karen Carney found space outside the arc of the penalty area and drove a blistering left-footed shot towards the top shelf. Loyden again got a hand to the ball and pushed it over.

The second half would see no chances on goal for Athletica. In fact, Athletica managed only one shot on goal the entire game (Aluko’s scorer) and only took five shots in total for the whole night. Chicago outshot Athletica by a 12-5 margin overall and put six shots on goal, all of which Loyden handled.

The Red Stars best opportunity of the second half came late as Frida Ostberg made a bid to get Chicago back in the game. A rare glimpse of open space in Athletica’s back line allowed Ostberg to drive in a shot from just inside the penalty area on the right wing that Loyden kick saved as she went to the turf. The save preserved the shutout for Loyden and Athletica. Who have now posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time the season.

“We were in a similar situation to Chicago, we lost our first two games,” said Barcellos. “We were able to find our game today and get three points away from home.”

Athletica is now on a two game winning streak and undefeated in their last four. The win moves Athletica into a fifth place tie with Chicago. Chicago and Saint Louis are even on points, goal differential, and wins. Washington moved into fourth-place with a 2-1 win over Sky Blue FC.

Athletica are next in action on Saturday May 30 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California when they take on the Los Angeles Sol. Game time is 6:00 central.

Saint Louis Athletica (2-2-2) at Chicago Red Stars (2-3-2)
May 23, 2009 – Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois

SCORING SUMMARY:
26th    Chicago        Ifeoma Dieke (own goal)
41st    Saint Louis        Eniola Aluko (assisted by Kendall Fletcher)

LINEUPS:
STL: Loyden; Cross, Ellertson, Larsson, Weber; Stoia (Walter 70), Fletcher, Woznuk, Francielle; Aluko, Hanks (Welsh 88)

CHI: Jonsson; Dieke, Igwe (Adams 45), Spilger, Krzysik (Garriock 45 (Wenino 56)); Masar, Klein, Ostberg, Oakes; Christiane, Carney

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY:
9th     Chicago         Chioma Igwe (unsporting behavior)
81st    Saint Louis        Eniola Aluko (dissent)

STATS SUMMARY:
    STL    CHI
Total Shots:    5    12   
Shots on Goal:    1    6           
Saves:    6    0   
Fouls:    12    11   
Corners:    2    4       
Offsides:    6    1           
Referee: Sandra Serafini
Referee's Assistants: Stephanie Toth, Katie Dziedzic
4th official: Jorge Cuate
time of game: 1:56
attendance: 4,461
weather: partly cloudy with one second half light shower, 70 degrees

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