The Chicago Red Stars had two comebacks in them Sunday afternoon against league-leading FC Gold Pride.
They needed a third.
In front of a season-best 6,089 fans at Toyota Park, the Red Stars lost 3-2 on Marta's penalty-kick goal in the 79th minute. The PK was awarded when Natalie Spilger was called for a hand ball in the penalty area, a call the home team disputed.
"That's kind of the story of our season," Red Stars forward Ella Masar said. "We never get the lucky draw. It's a tough call. We're fighting and we're battling for it. You give Marta that PK, she's the best player in the world. She's going to put it away."
Marta opened the scoring in the eighth minute, but Masar scored the equalizer 10 minutes later.
Rachel Buehler gave FC Gold Pride (13-3-4, 43 points) the lead again in the 33rd minute when she headed in a corner kick. Again Masar evened the score, in the 62nd minute, but the injury-riddled Red Stars (5-11-6, 21 points) couldn't answer Marta's second goal of the game.
"Our team has had tough luck the last two games, injury-wise: knee, broken nose, another girl a patella tendon, ankles," Masar said. "I think this 10 days is what we're going to need. We'll recover, come back and defend our turf."
They'll need to recover thoroughly, because their playoff hopes are dim. They need to win their final two games, both at home, and get some help.
"It doesn't look that good, does it?" coach Omid Namazi asked rhetorically.
Still, Namazi preferred to look on the bright side.
"You see it. We're not too far off the best team in the league, and if we have our full roster just like they did, we'd even put up a better fight and we'd be able to tie the game or even beat them," he said. "Right now we're a little shorthanded."