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Grit Bowl: Chicago Red Stars vs FC Kansas City, NWSL Week 22 Preview

Will Chicago solidify their playoff position this week?

Photo via Chicago Red Stars

The Chicago Red Stars will kick off their final three regular season games on the road, beginning with FC Kansas City. With 35 points, Chicago sits in 4th place position after Orlando pulled ahead on a draw against the Seattle Reign on Thursday night. Kansas City is on the outside of league standings, currently in 7th place.

Chicago is headed into Kansas City on a two-game win streak, their most recent coming against league table leaders North Carolina. Julie Ertz was the winner of the NWSL Goal of the Week for her game winning goal against North Carolina. Yuki Nagasato came in 3rd for NWSL player of the week, netting the equalizer and an assist on Ertz’s goal.

Kansas City has won 4 of their last five matches. Last week the Blues came away with a huge win against New Jersey, where they won 4-1. Both teams will be looking to improve on their record with only 3 matches left as they meet for the third and final time in the regular season.

Where we last saw them

Chicago and Kansas City last met back in August, where the Blues came away with a victory. While Chicago played a high press and strong possession the first 20 minutes of the match, Kansas City took advantage of the space on Chicago’s backline and connected two goals before the half. A missed penalty kick would have drew Chicago within one heading into the half, but Nicole Barnhart made her first PK save. Despite Julie Ertz getting a goal back, Kansas City won 1-3.

Starting line up we’d like to see

The arrival of Morgan Brian had many buzzing about the potential of the midfield for Chicago. But last week’s game truly opened up for Chicago once Yuki Nagasato came onto the pitch. We wouldn’t mind seeing Nagasato in the ten (for now) since DiBernardo has been listed on IR with a concussion, and Huerta up top because that’s where she thrives. With six Red Stars headed to national team camps for a short FIFA break, Chicago will want to put out their strongest line up.

Keys to the match

Contain Shea Groom

Groom is a player to build around for Kansas City and she is having some of her strongest games late in this season. Her play lead to the first goal in Chicago’s previous match up, and Groom netted a brace in last week’s game against Sky Blue FC.

Don’t fall victim to a bunker (again)

Those three home losses in August were frustrating, but not entirely ugly. Nothing worse than good stretches of soccer resulting in losses. However, if Chicago gets caught in a high press attack, there lies the problem. Kansas City tends to bunker, and could catch a gap in Chicago’s backline and counter (Hi, Meagan Kelly). As the visiting team, strong midfield possession could disrupt attempts at long balls over their backline.

Get Yuki involved as often as possible

Yuki Nagasato is showing that she has been worth the wait this season. Providing tactical skill on the ball and producing creativity on the pitch for and with her teammates. Announced back in May, she only recently became eligible to play in August after battling with injury. After collecting a goal of her own and an assist on the game winning goal, we’d like to see more of her play as the season is nearing its end.

How To Watch

Kickoff: Saturday, September 9th, 3pm CDT at Children’s Mercy Victory Field in Kansas City, MO

TV: Lifetime

Final Thoughts

Will Chicago come away with a win and make it three in a row? Who do you think will score? Are you still freaking out about playoff positioning? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!