Nine draws. Nine. Draws.
As we’ve all followed this season, some stalemates certainly read more prestigiously than others. Pull two points from North Carolina, the far-and-away league leaders? Fantastic! Get five out of nine from the second best Seattle Reign? Wonderful! Take control of your destiny and move into a playoff spot?
Within the microcosm of the NWSL’s top tier, a second scoreless draw against the Reign is less a troublesome weak spot as it is a nuanced asset in the Red Stars’ arsenal, but that’s not the journey we are on right now. There are only four games left in the 2018 NWSL season, and Chicago is in fifth place, with their next task being a quick turnaround against the Portland Thorns in their impenetrable fortress of Providence Park.
Going into the match, all involved acknowledged that the game was going to be tough. Wildfires have ravaged much of the western half of the U.S. for weeks now, and the initial impulse to look to the NWSL to distract us from the ongoing cries for help our planet sends out on a daily basis to remind us as a species that the entire concept of a summer soccer league is an inherent act of arrogance that we should all re-examine if we want to comfortably invest our time and energy not only into our own futures but that of those who come after us (pause for deep breath) is probably one that we all probably reflected on as the match ground on into a scoreless draw.
Not to say that the Red Stars didn’t look good throughout! They recreated the lineup that so satisfactorily dealt with the Courage last weekend, albeit without Yuki Nagasato (Rosie White took her place, and while she’s an athletic presence she can’t necessarily zero in on a connection with Sam Kerr the way Nagasato has in the past month). Morgan Brian had another strong outing as a functional eight for the Red Stars midfield, and Vanessa Dibernardo had another fantastic match controlling the flow of play in between the boxes.
However, Seattle goalkeeper (and Sam Kerr’s Matilda teammate) Lydia Williams had another impressive going in between the posts, and the Red Stars ended the night with another draw in their record. Within that, I’m not entirely sure what to say about where Chicago’s at right now. The team has continued to improve, and have shown ongoing tenacity and ambition in their style of play, and this last run of games has been (and will be) really hard. Is a draw so bad? Should I really be wanting more?
The answer to that now has to be a matter of degrees. I said in the throes of Chicago’s injury woes that I just wanted a solid string of results. The Red Stars have responded to that and more, but if they’re really trying to make the playoffs? They just. gotta. win. Tonight’s result was something that Seattle could afford. Chicago is playing with fire. They take on an equally smoky Portland this Saturday, August 18th, and they’ll need to do better than a draw to feel comfortable going into their big showdown with Orlando the following weekend.
They’re playing well enough to pull it off. But they still have to end the story with emphasis.
The Chicago Red Stars (7W 9D 4L, 30pts, 5th in the NWSL standings) finish their PNW trip on Saturday when they face the Portland Thorns.