The Chicago Red Stars will host their final regular season home game this Sunday against the North Carolina Courage. Chicago is currently sitting in third place in the NWSL standings. They are tied for points with Orlando Pride, but hold a tie breaker in head to head. North Carolina sit in first place and recently clinched a playoff spot with a win over Washington Spirit this past Wednesday.
Chicago returns home after a victory against Washington last Saturday, the crucial three points coming in clutch, after the Red Stars dropped 9 points over 3 games at Toyota Park. It’s business as usual this weekend for the Red Stars as they prepare to face Carolina in a potential playoff preview.
North Carolina Courage have been the most dominating team in NWSL this season. They have owned the top of the standings since week one, only briefly losing their number one ranking against the Red Stars back in July. However, Chicago owns head to head against North Carolina this season, taking two wins against them back in May. Prior history, and recent trades, make this game all the more interesting.
Where we last saw them
The Red Stars last faced the Courage back in May at Toyota Park. It was one of the better matches of the season to date, a back and forth dual that ended in a 3-2 victory for the Red Stars with goals coming via the midfield in Vanessa DiBernardo, Danielle Colaprico, and Alyssa Mautz.
Starting line up we’d like to see
Shout out to Kristie Mewis who made the most of her time here by getting a goal and helping lock up a win against her old team right after getting traded here, only to be traded a week later to Houston Dash for Morgan Brian.
While the idea of a DiBernardo, Brian, Colaprico, Ertz midfield sounds like a potential symphony, the status of Brian’s health isn't entirely known. Its been reported that Brian is listed as available and healthy, but it's unknown if she will earn the start this week.
However, we also thought Mewis wouldn't get the start in her first game, aren't previews fun?! So, we're going to do the same thing here in hopes of being wrong again. Against the Courage, we’d like to continue seeing the play of Nagasato in the starting line up.
Keys to the match
Mid v Mid
Samantha Mewis has helped the Courage and their Midfield look unstoppable at times this season. With the addition of Debinha in the offseason and the elevated play of McCall Zerboni, the tone of this match will be dictated through the mid. Chicago will look to counteract Carolina’s possession with a strong midfield presence of their own.
Bench v Bench
North Carolina is coming off a midweek game as the road team. While on short rest, they have a deep roster, similar to Chicago. Their rookie Ashley Hatch has been performing well for them, and they have the depth to perform for them should it come down to substitutions this match.
While not exactly a key, along with North Carolina, Chicago will also face off one last time against Portland before the regular season ends. Chicago will not only want to produce a result in a match like this, but establish their potential playoff mentality going forward. Captain Christen Press has been vocal about the importance of that going forward.
How To Watch
Kick off: Sunday, September 3rd, 5:00 pm CDT at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL
Stream: go90 or NWSLSoccer.com
Did the Morgan Brian trade catch you off guard? Do you think Chicago will get the series sweep against North Carolina? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!