On Saturday, Toyota Park is playing host to an MLS/NWSL double header as the the Chicago Fire and Chicago Red Stars face off against the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns. With the Fire as the opening act, the Red Stars are the main event slated to kick off later in the evening, as they welcome their fans back for their home opener.
Last week in Houston, Chicago came away with a draw against the Dash after dropping the previous 2 season openers in Texas. The Red Stars had strong possession, but lacked in attack and shots on goal. The team was without a number of their regular starters, and may face a similar scenario against the Thorns on Saturday.
Where we last saw them
Chicago last faced Portland at Providence Park. The final regular season game in Portland had Head Coach Rory Dames resting his starters, while much of the bench closed out the season. With Portland going up 2 goals into the second half, it wasn’t till Sofia Huerta subbed on and scored in the 70th minute where the Red Stars began to look lethal. However, a late game penalty kick was awarded to the Thorns, taking all three points and winning the match 3-1.
Starting lineup we’d like to see
Truthfully, we’d like to hunt the injury demon that has currently cursed the Red Stars and slay it back into depths of darkness where it belongs.
However, until it is found, we wouldn’t mind seeing Sofia Huerta up top with Michele Vasconcelos. In the season opener against Houston, finishing in the final third for Chicago was lacking and limited, some rotation up top could prove pivotal this week in the home opener against Portland.
Although Huerta is listed as defender in National Team camps, for club, she shines as a forward and has been Chicago’s number 2 offensive option in the past. With Yuki Nagasato out this week with an injury, Sam Kerr on international duty, and now Steph McCaffrey out with illness, it’s as good a time as ever to see Huerta in the attack up top for Chicago.
Since it’s the home opener, let’s get wild all together and just have Arin Gilliand moved up into the midfield, with Sarah Gorden and Taylor Comeau handling outside back responsibility.
Keys to the match
Might do a little time: While regular starters are rehabbing from injury and Sam Kerr off on national tem duty for Australia, this is the team moving forward as currently assembled. An early challenge against the reigning NWSL champions could prove the catalyst in making new strides for the Red Stars newly claimed playing style.
Woke up an optimist: The good thing about facing other ‘top tier teams’ early in the season is that it’s likely the other team will be in the process of figuring things out for themselves in these early weeks of the season. While the Red Stars have some injuries and are coming off a season opening draw with lots of questions - the Thorns are also coming into Toyota Park short handed, missing several players along with their Head Coach, and searching for answers of their own - the game could come down to a battle of who settles in first.
How To Watch
Kick off: Saturday, March 31 at 7:15 pm CT at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.
Stream: Go90 app
Will the Red Stars come away with their first win this season? Who do you want to see score in the home opener? Will you attending the game? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!