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Playing for Pride: Red Stars vs Washington, NWSL Week 9 Preview

Chicago is undefeated at Toyota Park this season. Will they extend their streak this week?

Photo via Chicago Red Stars

After a short FIFA break that saw four Red Stars players head over to Europe for pair of Scandinavian friendlies, its back to NWSL play this weekend. In previous NWSL action, the Red Stars have gone on a bit of a streak the last few weeks, winning 3 in row. The team remains undefeated over the last five weeks, while defending home turf at Toyota Park. The Red Stars will look to improve on the record and league table where they currently sit in second place.

Chicago will play host to the Washington Spirit on their annual Pride night. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since their 2016 semi-final match.

Where we last saw them

If you love reliving heartache, please feel free to check out the highlights below.

I was walking with a ghost

A lot has changed for the Washington Spirit since that 2016 semi-final. Along with a heartbreaking Championship loss, the roster had a huge turn over during the offseason. No longer is this the same team that ran the table last year, but a team that just earned their second win in a season that’s eight weeks old. Despite the growing pains, some silver linings remain. Goal Keeper Stephanie Labbe is having a great season to date, and in a surprising turn of events, Mallory Pugh declared to go pro.

There were some ‘delays’ in getting Pugh to the Spirit, despite Washington being first in allocation order, but the young phenom eventually made her way to the NWSL via DC. Pugh will not be playing this Saturday due to an ankle injury that was sustained in warm-up’s with the U.S. National Team.

Despite the current tone of the team, the overall head to head is in Washington’s favor, pulling 7 wins over Chicago in 11 total matches.

Starting line up we’d like to see

Keys to the match

Take no team lightly

While on paper this match may appear an easy win, the league opened the season with all teams swinging in parity. Playing ‘down to a team’s level’ or taking an opposing record for granted can bite teams in this league. Chicago will want to set the tone early, with their midfield navigating the match.

Press the backline

There is a reason we are seeing Steph Labbe on the save of the week highlights constantly. The Canadian keeper has faced a whopping 54 total shots, conceding 16 and saving 38. Her total saves put her in second place in the league, one save behind league leader Haley Kopmeyer. Christen Press and Co. will want to test Washington’s backline early and get those shots on goal.

Play for Pride

While the sting of the semi-final loss still lingers, the Red Stars are also no longer the team they once were last season. They’re better.

While the team is improving the minor flaws in their game such as lack of width in their attack or brutal off the post shots, those loose ends are starting to come together. Christen Press and Sofia Huerta have burned the narrative that they cannot score for and with each other. Julie Ertz has been pushed into the midfield playing 3 different roles at times, and has often dominated her play in those roles. Second year player Katie Naughton has cemented her role as a starting center back. Fellow CB Samantha Johnson has become the voice in front of Alyssa Naeher for the backline.

Casey Short, Danielle Colaprico, and Vanessa DiBernardo are having repeat success on the pitch this season. A win won’t heal old wounds, but could help propel Chicago into first place, and remind them, and others, they are here to contend.

How to watch

Kickoff: Saturday, June 17, 2:50pm CDT. Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL.

TV/Streaming: Lifetime

Final Thoughts

Will you be celebrating Pride this weekend at Toyota Park? Will Chicago find themselves in first after this weekend? Who do you think will end up on the score sheet? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!