Of the ten games they’ve played so far, the Chicago Red Stars have played six of them to a draw.
There are obviously extenuating circumstances that had the Red Stars chasing games early on, including multiple injuries to key players and an unfortunately top-heavy schedule that stretched Chicago’s depth even further than originally anticipated.
But as we reach the halfway point in the 2018 campaign, the Red Stars have to start shutting some of these games down, and that has to come through prioritizing goal-scoring more than simply containing their opposition.
Having Sam Kerr up top is a fantastic asset to the Chicago offense, but she quickly becomes isolated in the attack when her offensive counterparts are spending more time tracking back in the midfield. From a basic personnel standpoint, Kerr looks infinitely more comfortable when Yuki Nagasato is consistently in games beside her (rather than being saved as a late sub), and when Sofia Huerta is given the range to stay pushing forward, rather than using her energy helping her outside backs smother the other team.
The offensive frustration also seems to stem from some confusion in Chicago’s midfield, with the slow return of Julie Ertz limiting the flow of play. It’s obviously important to get Ertz integrated back into the game-plan as much as possible, but some of the clear on-field chemistry between Danny Colaprico and Huerta has gotten lost in the midfield shuffling. With Ertz’s clear ability to control games at her best, it makes sense why she is getting as many minutes at the top of games as possible, but from a strategic standpoint she might be more useful as a super sub (particularly if Chicago needs an authoritative presence while maintaining a lead).
The personnel movement in the midfield has also meant that rookie Michele Vasconcelos has seen less time on the field, which is a fair development considering head coach Rory Dames’ other options, but she has shown moments where her incredible speed both on and off the ball can spark a moment that could definitively switch games in Chicago’s direction.
At the moment, it looks like the Red Stars are more comfortable making life hard for other teams rather than really going after leads themselves, and they have found themselves with a bunch of talent that doesn’t quite know what it’s supposed to be doing on any given game-day. Their next match against Orlando will be a good test, as the Pride absolutely have some firepower that the defense will do well to contain, but they also have a defense that can be stretched, if the Red Stars go in deciding they are going to make that happen.