Seattle Reign 0
Over the ongoing weeks of the Chicago Red Stars 2018 season, I’ve spent some time reckoning with the idea that not all draws are the same. Some of them include Chicago playing down to an opponents, and some of them include the Red Stars playing up past their respective weight, and in the early going there hasn’t been anything more indicative of a true #scamgang than a God’s honest tie.
But trust me, this draw has to feel like an okay one. The Reign (and maybe more specifically Megan Rapinoe and the Reign) dismantled Sky Blue last week 4-1, and Chicago came in to the match not exactly matching the energy, drawing the Houston Dash 2-2 in their last match. The Red Stars are having some trouble hanging on, and the Reign looked like a side with the ability to usher in a loss.
But Chicago came into Seattle with the intention of giving as good as they got, and they mostly succeeded. The officiating absolutely felt lopsided at times, but questionable calls are the cost of doing business for many NWSL matches. And this weekend there was more evidence proving my analysis from last weekend that draws ultimately are not going to be enough to make the post-season this year. The Portland Thorns mostly underachieved this weekend and still stole all three points from the Washington Spirit, and the North Carolina Courage looked pretty unstoppable against Sky Blue FC.
And the Seattle Reign aren’t likely to drop points like they did tonight again. This Red Stars team is fantastic at containing talented teams, not unlike the Utah Royals. But unlike the Royals, Chicago is expected to be able to feed their upfield star Sam Kerr, and put her into places to succeed.
Not starting Yuki Nagasato up top is an ongoing frustration, as she seems to be the attacking counterpart most on Kerr’s page going forward, and the Red Stars are still sorely missing Casey Short in an outside back role that might give Arin Gilliland more freedom to roam forward from the opening kickoff.
The Red Stars also need Julie Ertz to get comfortable in the midfield as soon as humanly possible. Ertz is coming back from a knee injury, which is nothing to take lightly, but she’s looked tentative since returning to play for Chicago. She’s going to have some growing pains naturally in figuring out exactly what her best slot is with Danny Colaprico and (hopefully soon!) Vanessa Dibernardo over time, but every new player has the pressure of being a cog that will take the Red Stars over the top.
I genuinely do feel emboldened in how Chicago has learned so gracefully not to lose. Alyssa Naeher has been on another level in the month of May, and she kept the Red Stars in the game for much of the match on Saturday night. Sofia Huerta and Sam Kerr have also been just dangerous enough to keep the opposition on their toes. (I also think Reign keeper Lydia Williams had a very solid game.)
(Check out Chicago head coach Rory Dames’ post-game quotes, along from quotes from Naeher below:)
The Red Stars will host the Orlando Pride (the perpetrators of their worst loss of the season so far) next weekend, and we’ll all watch to see if that winning switch ever actually gets flipped for Chicago. For now, we know they can hang, but that makes for a boring season.