The Red Stars recently clinched the final playoff spot on the NWSL table Tuesday night against Sky Blue FC in a lopsided 5-0 victory in Toyota Park. Had the Red Stars lost the match, it would have set up a final regular season battle between Utah and Chicago, but Saturday’s game is now one for pride rather than playoffs.
Where We Last Saw Them
After a big midseason trade between Houston, Chicago and Utah, The Red Stars and Royals last faced each other back on June 23rd. Chicago won the game 2-0 on goals from Katie Naughton and Vanessa DiBernardo. The goals were the first of the year for both players.
Starting Lineup We’d Like To See
With a semifinal position secured, and playoff positioning still in play, Chicago have a unique opportunity ahead of them this match. With a few injuries on the recent IR, Chicago can either stay the course, build on another game with usual starters - or- rest a few players and continue giving their depth players more minutes. Here’s who we’d like to see get the start on Saturday.
Keys To The Match
Growth Spurt: After a 3 team midseason trade, all teams improved in different ways, but one team claimed the final playoff spot. Saturday’s game could be a mix of finishing strong and playing for pride. As Seattle and Portland face off, wins from Seattle and Chicago could see the Red Stars finish as the 3rd seed.
Took So Long: Chicago clinched with a game to spare, and 4 consecutive playoff appearances is no easy feat - but the Red Stars have done a good job this season of taking on the task in front of them. Look for the same composure in this one as they close out the season into the playoffs.
Tippy Toes: Injuries. Schedule. Tons of draws. Not enough goal scorers. And lots of other narratives surrounded the team this season, but they now find themselves right where they wanted to be - in the playoffs. In this match, it could be the final time to get additional match minutes on the season for depth players before playoffs. Show off.
Players To Watch
Utah Royals FC: All eyes will be on Christen Press, but she might be passing the ball to Amy Rodriguez. Both have had to work on their chemistry, and a final home match might be the catalyst.
Chicago Red Stars: Brooke Elby was acquired by Chicago in the midseason trade but is listed as questionable on the IR, so keep an eye on Alyssa Naeher. Back from National Team duty and playoff bound with a game to play - the keeper will want to get some good touches before a semifinal.
How To Watch
Kickoff: Saturday, September 8, at 2:30pm CT at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah
Streaming: NWSLSoccer.com | NWSL app
Who do you want to see start on Saturday? Do you want Chicago to rest players or roll out as many starters as possible? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!