With their 2018 regular season debut rapidly approaching, the Chicago Red Stars gave their first public look at their roster depth and formational possibilities when they took on the Portland Thorns during the Portland Spring Invitational this past Sunday (they’ll be kicking off against the Houston Dash at the time of this posting). In addition to coming out on top 1-0 thanks to a second half strike from Arin Gilliland, the Red Stars showed a willingness to rotate as many players as possible during the match, and break in some new faces.
The most interesting look in the starting lineup was rookie Emily Boyd getting the start in goal. While no one was anticipating starting keeper Alyssa Naeher seeing any time coming off her three full-90’s during the recent SheBelieves Cup, one has to wonder if this was an indication of Boyd’s spot on the depth chart in regard to her competition with long-time Red Star Michelle Dalton. Dalton will surely see some time as preseason continues, but Boyd posting the shutout against the Thorns (and keeping Portland off the score-sheet, from the way the first half of the contest sounded) could have long-term implications as Chicago whittles their way down to their final roster.
While Chicago’s lineup didn’t have too many surprises versus what one might expect from this squad, there were also a few wrinkles that might become relevant as the season progresses. Taylor Comeau started in the right-back position, a role that she took on occasionally in 2017 when needed, and she got a good look considering the ankle knock Casey Short picked up during her USWNT appearance earlier this month.
And in the second half, when typical outside-back Gilliland came on for some late minutes, she relieved Summer Green, who had been playing in the midfield. It was from this midfield position that Gilliland broke free to break the scoreless stalemate, (a position she’s familiar with from her time in Australia’s W-League), and one has to wonder if Rory Dames has some interesting ideas as to how to slot players into this roster in different match-time scenarios that could help the Red Stars with their final killer instinct to close out games.
Finally, the match ended with the first appearance from Sam Kerr in a Chicago uniform! It sounds like there were still issues to be ironed out, getting Kerr integrated early (considering how long she’s going to be out for Australia’s Asian Cup campaign) could prove to be very important as the Red Stars scrap for points in a stacked NWSL table.