After a flurry of slightly exhausting activity, it’s been a slow couple of weeks for the Chicago Red Stars, with the international break grinding momentum to a halt before the league begins again in earnest this weekend. With the odd scheduling rendering the first two games of the season to the equal significance of a quasi-preseason, no one would be faulted in a lack of clarity on the story-lines that carried through the dark days off, so let’s catch up!
The US Women’s National Team played two friendlies against Mexico on the Thursday and Sunday, the 5th and 8th of April. Chicago keeper Alyssa Naeher suited up for the USA for the Thursday match, allowing one goal by Mexico (and Sky Blue FC) forward Katie Johnson, and she had a couple other moments in the match that had shades of some of her struggles against Portland before the break (are we worried? We don’t know yet!).
Naeher was given Sunday off in favor of Houston’s Jane Campbell, but Sofia Huerta picked up minutes at the end of that match, coming in at outside back against a Mexico team that had a significant role in her international development. Chicago Red Stars Reserves standout Christina Murillo also saw time in both matches, coming in as a substitute on Thursday, and getting a start on Sunday. In general, the USWNT friendlies were less Chicago-centric than in the past, considering the ongoing injuries to the Red Stars starting lineup keeping a number of players out of camp.
On that front, there hasn’t been much word as to whether the Red Stars are going to be getting any of those players back before they travel to face the Utah Royals in their historic home opener on Saturday. However, it looks like Rosie White, picked up by Chicago in the Boston Breakers dispersal draft, has finally made her way to the US to join her new club while still in recovery for stress fractures in her feet, and Yuki Nagasato’s rehabilitation from her hamstring strain is coming along well. Still unclear is the timeline on the return of Julie Ertz, Casey Short, and Vanessa Dibernardo, but the injury report before Saturday should hopefully give some update on that progress.
In other parts of the world, star striker Sam Kerr’s Australia squad has a win and a draw to their name in group play of the 2018 Asian Cup, meaning they haven’t yet clinched their spot in the 2019 World Cup, but are very much still in the mix. Depending on the result of their match against Japan on Friday, the Matilda’s will either play in one of the semi-finals on the 17th of April, or in the Fifth Place game on the 16th. Regardless, the end of Kerr’s international duty is in sight, and the Red Stars will be eager for her return.
Chicago is going from the time off right into a tough 7-day stretch that will see them in Utah on Saturday, hosting the Houston Dash on Wednesday, and taking on Sky Blue the following Saturday. After an early stretch, the 2018 NWSL season about to get real, and Chicago is going to have to be on their A-game to pick up their first win of a still-young summer.