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Alyssa Naeher returns to World Cup form in 150th NWSL start

(Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

Alyssa Naeher made a return to form Saturday to propel the Chicago Red Stars to a 1-0 win — and she made some history in the process.

The 35-year-old goalkeeper made her 519th save Saturday, surpassing former Gotham FC goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris for the most saves in NWSL history. She made six saves on the night, including two diving saves and five inside the box, to end the match with 520 career saves.

The shutout win is made even more outstanding by the fact that the expected goals on target number for the game stood at 1.94.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our training,” Naeher said. “We create situations that are chaotic daily to prepare for chaos. … Just being able to stay present, stay in the moment and being ready for anything.”

Noting the wild sequence that led to her record-breaking save, she said, “Ironically, we have trained that before.”

For the longtime U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper, the match meant more than an individual record. It was a win the Red Stars “needed,” she said, after a rocky start to the season. The team held a 1-1-6 record heading into the match, and Naeher had allowed 22 goals through the first eight matches.

“I think the team’s been working hard these last few weeks and things just haven’t been clicking the way that we want them to,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to grind it out, and I think that’s what we did tonight.

“Obviously, to get to celebrate different milestones and things like that, I mean I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve been very fortunate and grateful or blessed to be able to for 15 years to get to do this.”

The record-breaking performance came in Naeher’s 150th NWSL start, and her 93rd with Chicago. She has been a mainstay in the league since 2013.

“I think any night, you have confidence right away because you’ve got the best goalkeeper,” Red Stars head coach Chris Petrucelli said about Naeher. “She’s been the best goalkeeper in the world for many years. It’s not just right now, but she’s playing at an extremely high level.

“It’s rare that the goalkeeper wins you games, but we have one that she wins games for us. She makes saves that shouldn’t be made, you know? And so it’s just very comforting to know that she’s in there.”