The Chicago Red Stars return home to Toyota Park this weekend where they will face the Portland Thorns FC. The second match of a three-game series this season, both teams face each other in the midst of a tightening race at the top of the NWSL table. Chicago and Portland currently sit second and third in the standings, where one point separate the two teams. Portland can leapfrog Chicago with a win and add more pressure to league leaders North Carolina.
Chicago enters this weekend on a five-game undefeated streak— including four draws, with their last win coming before the international break against Orlando. The Red Stars will have to face a Thorns team on a streak of their own, winners of their last three matches. Both teams have seemed to shake off their slow early season starts, and have been producing some good soccer since their last match back in April.
Where we last saw them
Back in April, Portland played host to the visiting Chicago. In a match that featured what would soon be a dominating Midfield Monster in Julie Ertz and some controversial no-calls, it ultimately served as the Red Stars’ second loss of the season. The lone goal of the match was from a penalty kick, executed with effortless chill by Nadia Nadim.
Starting line up we’d like to see
Last week, we were able to predict 10 of the starting 11. It’s a small victory we’d like to celebrate briefly, since this week’s prediction will probably be totally wrong. Earlier this week Chicago activated Yuki Nagasato from the disabled list, and sadly, due to 20-person rosters in the NWSL, the team made the difficult decision to waive Mary Luba.
With three national team starters returning from a week’s rest, and Nagasato finally available for selection, we’d like to see her get some time out wide, preferably off the bench. Chicago’s startling 11 is difficult to break through and Nagasato could likely get a game or two off the bench before taking on a full 90 minutes after rehabbing from injury.
Look for the usual suspects to start against Portland this weekend.
Keys To The Match
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Head to head, Portland has the most victories over Chicago. The Red Stars have only one win to date in the history of matches against the Thorns. Of 13 total goals against the Rose City, Captain Christen Press has scored 5 of them over 8 games. This season, with multiple goal scorers, Chicago will want to continue that trend in their attack.
Whether it’s Press, or Huerta, or DiBernardo, the Red Stars will want to establish their offensive presence early by dominating and building through its midfield.
Hold the line
Chicago’s backline has arguably been the league’s best defensive unit this season. They will have to continue the chemistry against a currently peaking Portland team. Christine Sinclair has the ability to frustrate any back line, and with her four goals, she will be looking for more.
While the finish line is still several weeks away, current standings are closer than gloves on a keeper. Tie breakers like head to head and goal differential could come into play down the stretch. With 8 games remaining this year, both teams will face off one last time in the final week of regular season action at Portland. This mid-season match up should feel differently from April given positioning and each sides current chemistry.
How To Watch
Kickoff: Saturday, August 12, 7:00 pm CDT at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.
Do you think the Red Stars will remain undefeated at home this season? Will Chicago finally collect a victory against Portland after several seasons? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!