In the tunnel at Toyota Park, the Chicago Red Stars made the trek into the locker room following their third straight loss at home physically and emotionally exhausted.
Before ducking into the locker room to unpack another difficult night, Red Stars captain Christen Press talked to me about the importance of remaining focused down the final stretch of the regular season.
“I think that as a team, emotionally, we've been through a lot trying to pick ourselves back up and understand what's going on [losses] it just keeps seeming to slip through the cracks and that's disappointing. But as an athlete and a soccer player that you kind of just have to grind through these hard times and it's so important to just stay present and not think about the past and not think about the fact that it's three games or if we're down, and just keep doing what we're doing because we have a great team. I think that we have a really good chance at winning the championship. It's hard to see in moments like this, but I think we'll continue to believe in ourselves and will our way there.”
A team that has spent the last few years building towards through a championship through drafts came into this season with strong ambitions of making it to an NWSL final and winning. With five games remaining on the schedule, the Red Stars sit in the top four standings at third place, just two points ahead of Seattle in fifth place. The stakes for this final batch of games just became much, much higher.
Press understands the team needs to move forward and look ahead to finishing the season strong.
“We have five games left and if we play five great games then that will be a great way to go into a semi final. So it's not really about taking points, we obviously need the points, but for me, it's about preparing ourselves for that semi final. Because if we can't get a cushion enough to prepare for a semifinal, and we fail again? That's not something i think this team is interested in. So it's no longer about the glory of getting to the playoffs. It's about winning.”
Chicago will face the Washington Spirit on Saturday before returning home to face league leaders North Carolina Courage on September 3rd.