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If You Prick Us: Portland 1, Red Stars 0, recap

Chicago lets a beatable Portland side off the hook and leaves the PNW empty-handed

Photo via Chicago Red Stars

During halftime, Red Stars manager Rory Dames spoke to Lifetime reporters about what his side needs to do to come back from the scoreline deficit. His response was to “play less direct.” I and several folks on WoSo Twitter responded to that with essentially:

“Really? Really?”

This is sort of where we’re at with the Red Stars right now.

Despite some strong build-up play and no shortage of fight, the Red Stars suffered a frustrating missed opportunity as they took a 1-0 loss from a very beatable Portland team.

The first half was fairly even, although Portland just about edged out their visitors. The Red Stars had a few more promising chances but couldn’t quite make good on them. The game probably could’ve stood at 0-0 at halftime and it would’ve been a fair and reasonable state of affairs.

Except for that part where Christen Press committed a handball foul during a Portland corner kick and conceded a penalty. Nadia Nadim converted dutifully, because of course she did. The half ended with the home team up 1-0.

The Red Stars responded in the second half with plenty of fight. What they didn’t have was finishing. Or pressure. Or patience. They had some strong build-up play but could never get anyone on the end of the cross, or get anyone onto the end of a throughball who could make the most of the opportunity. They were up against a Portland team that couldn’t lock things down on their end and looked ripe for some effective pressing. But Chicago couldn’t actually do the things they needed to do.

The Red Stars certainly didn’t deserve to win this game. But they probably didn’t deserve to lose, either. Take away the penalty call— which, in fairness, was deserved and called correctly— and the story of today becomes very different indeed. We’d be praising a scrappy Red Stars team who went out onto the home turf of a team they’ve struggled against in recent seasons and came home with a point and a clean sheet.

As it is, Chicago now has two losses from three games. We’re barely a month into the new season and the Red Stars are already in trouble— falling behind in the table, struggling to put balls in the back of the net, and clearly unsure as to their identity. And sure, this could just be an early hiccup and they may well get their stuff together. But they might not. And it’s an open question as to whether this team is strong enough to face the internal turmoil and the external scrutiny that comes with underperforming like this over the course of a whole season.

And they don’t have a lot of time to figure things out. The Red Stars are back at home next Saturday for a rematch against Houston. If Rory Dames’ side can get it together then, there will be plenty of people looking furtively at the panic button.