The Chicago Red Stars returned to action this past weekend. After a brief World Cup break and a bye week, the Red Stars faced Reign FC in search for a result after dropping two matches before a break in their season.
Before their match against Reign FC last Sunday, Red Stars announced a trade with Sky Blue which brought forward Savannah McCaskill to Chicago. Despite the new energy around the team, Red Stars fell 0-1 to the Reign on a late game goal from Jess Fishlock.
Here’s some things we learned from the Red Stars third consecutive loss.
Who asked for the growing pains and why?
Prior to this 2019 season schedule dropping, all were awaiting the World Cup, including NWSL teams as they prepared to navigate this stretch of tournament matches. A number of teams were pegged by pundits as being capable of keeping their heads above water as most squads said goodbye to their international players. Teams like Washington, Houston, and Chicago were all projected to have rosters with the ability to compete for positioning during this time.
While there is an argument to be had in regard to differences between some clubs during this World Cup portion of the NWSL schedule, the only true contrast has been results. Other teams are getting points whether win or draw during this stretch of games - the Red Stars are not.
While the Red Stars are no strangers to rough spells in their seasons, this stretch of losses feels particularly odd when compared to years prior. Where Red Stars teams of the past held a level of tenacity when it came to carrying an attitude with a refusal to lose - which had resulted in getting draws, even if they were low scoring.
Every season has its highs and its lows, and this is a team with a roster that has had a core of players with experience on its roster. Some for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, seasons. With that veteran leadership, it’s not realistic to call this a growth spurt - it’s a slump. It’s because of that experience this team should be able to recognize the low and try to level out before the real climb begins.
Shift in the tide?
While the Red Stars have previously suffered from season lows, one thing they’ve shown is the ability to guide themselves out of a storm. Whether it’s been a shift in mentality, or roster, or sometimes both - as a show of effort to pursue their season and prove naysayers wrong.
Chicago is a club unafraid of making the ‘midseason trade’ in an effort to stay the course. We saw it in 2016 when they brought on Stephanie McCaffrey from Boston. Saw it again in 2017 when they participated in two trades that brought Kristie Mewis, then went on to pursue Morgan Brian all within a 10 day window. Then we saw it once more last season, when Chicago participated in a multi team trade which brought Brooke Elby and the number one draft pick that became Tierna Davidson.
Now they add Savannah McCaskill to that history of midseason trades. In her first minutes against Reign FC, we saw McCaskill put a shift on for the Red Stars that brought a bit of savvy into the final third with a formation change with her and Katie Johnson up top. The attack looked promising, more than it has in the last 3 matches, and yet the goals still didn’t happen for Chicago. But more than the last stretch of games, it finally feels like goals come soon.
The Red Stars find themselves in the bottom three of the league table. An unfamiliar and uncomfortable position. But NWSL parity thrives in tournament years, and Chicago sit just three points out of the top tier as they await their next two matches against lower ranked teams on the horizon.
In the event that the results still don’t come in the span of now and the eventual return of Red Star internationals, the question will be: is there going to be another trade?