It’s right back to work this Sunday for the Chicago Red Stars after a 2-0 loss against the Orlando Pride on Wednesday night. The muggy midweek match (with a weather stoppage!) served as the home debut for Australian forward Sam Kerr, who did not get on the scoresheet but gave Chicago a sharpness in attack that will serve them well in the weeks and months to come.
Chicago found themselves having to play from behind for a second time in three days after going down in the 28th minute, and the match eventually went in Orlando’s favor after the Pride went up 2-0 in the 80th minute.
Head Coach Rory Dames commented post game on his team's short roster and busy schedule, saying, “we can only play the schedule we’ve been given and the schedule we’ve been given isn’t very friendly. . . we’re playing our fifth game basically in two and half weeks with 15 players.”
He elaborated: “It’s ridiculous at this level that you would have three games in a week, and then have three games again a week later. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. It un-balances the table at the end of the season, I don’t think it’s a clear reflection of the caliber of the teams, it’s more about just trying to physically survive.”
The Red Stars will have to find their footing quickly against the top team in the league as they visit the North Carolina Courage on Sunday in Cary, NC. Dames isn’t placing huge implications on the upcoming match.
“I think it’s unrealistic to set expectations for our team based off the situation that we’re in, the best thing that can happen on Sunday is that nobody gets hurt,” Dames said.
Where We Last Saw Them
Are you someone who enjoys reliving painful moments? Well then this preview is for you.
While Chicago got the better of North Carolina in 2017 during the regular season, it was a disappointing result for the Red Stars when they last faced the Courage in the playoff semifinals. A stingy match that only saw brief moments of significant play for either side, eventually all came tumbling down for Chicago as they were eliminated on a 90th minute deflected goal.
Starting Lineup We’d Like To See
With some players rotating in and out of the active roster (and the injured list) mixed with another three-game stretch in eight days, Chicago might want to have some player rotation— but the challenge is a short roster. We’d like to see if Kerr, Huerta, and Vasconcelos can find (and keep) that brief spark of momentum they had during Wednesday’s second half.
Keys To The Match
Sometimes hunger is the fuel: In postgame comments after the Orlando game, Sam Kerr acknowledged the six games on a short rostered Red Stars squad saying, “I’m feeling mad for the team. I was away for one week of it [3 games/8 days] I don’t think it’s fair [but] that’s not up for me to decide, that’s for whoever runs this league to decide.”
With two games as a Red Star now on her resume, Kerr is eager to get a win with her new team. When asked about what she wanted to take from the loss into Sunday, she keeps it simple and focused.
Stay Motivated: Recently voted player of the month for April, Sofia Huerta echoed similar sentiments on the loss saying, “Disappointing. When you lose points at home it’s always disappointing especially by two goals.”
Voted as the lone Red Star on the NWSL Team of the Month, Huerta praised her teammates for staying motivated during the tough stretch of games. “I couldn’t have done any of that without my teammates. We’ve all kind of come together considering all our injuries. So, it’s been encouraging alone just to see that.”
Players to watch
North Carolina Courage: While Sam Mewis is working her way back from injury, McCall Zerboni is off to a great start this season, maintaining her playing form from last season in helping to navigate and dominate the midfield for the Courage. Crystal Dunn has also wasted no time in connecting with her new team and has been a catalyst for their offense.
Chicago Red Stars: [insert your favorite player here] Now scratch that out and put Nikki Stanton. After an offseason trade brought Kerr and Stanton to the Red Stars, an established midfield was already in place. With injuries to players like Ertz and DiBernardo, it has been Stanton partnered with Colaprico to handle the responsibility of making a broken band of midfielders “A Midfield.”
Over Chicago’s seven games, Stanton has started in 6, and has completely assimilated into the Red Stars team culture. “I love being a Chicago Red Star. I’ve really enjoyed it,” Stanton said. “I think it’s a really amazing club to come into. It’s been very welcoming [and] it’s just been awesome. I’m happy to be here. I see a lot good things happening in the future.”
How To Watch
Kickoff: Sunday, May 6 at 2:00pm CT in Cary, NC at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Stream: go90 (US), NWSLsoccer.com, NWSL app (international).
How do you think the Red Stars are playing? Will Chicago be the team that delivers North Carolina their first loss of the season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!