The Red Stars need a striker. Despite the addition of Mallory Pugh this offseason (who will certainly provide goals/assists if she stays fit), the offensive struggles so far in the Challenge Cup have made it clear that further attacking reinforcement is needed for Chicago if they intend to contend this season.
Head coach Rory Dames said last week that the team is pursuing two players in Europe and is confident they will sign at least one. It feels safe to assume one of these players is a striker, so despite how speculative this will be given a complete lack of actual transfer rumors I figured why not take a look at five strikers the Red Stars could try to sign.
A few exclusions:
- No Sam Kerr
- No Olympique Lyon players (no way would they let anyone go to another NWSL team besides OL Reign)
- No world-class stars that are crucial players for top teams (Pernille Harder, Viv Miedema, Caroline Graham Hansen, etc)
The Proven Veteran With Gas in the Tank: Ellen White, Manchester City
Ok, I’m starting with White because you could argue this breaks my own criteria. White is the preferred striker for a team fighting for the title in the FA Women’s Super League that made the Champions League quarterfinals. She has 9 goals in 21 WSL games this season and is City’s top scorer. White will turn 32 on May 9th, so while she may have a couple elite years left it is fair to ask how soon a team like City who have shown a willingness to spend will look to sign a new striker for the future.
White is exactly the type of forward the Red Stars need: a focal point who can hold up the ball and is a clinical finisher.
However, City might want to keep her as long as she continues to play at this level, and White has never played outside of England.
A Young Player Looking for More Opportunity: Signe Bruun, Paris Saint Germain
PSG are having a phenomenal season. They currently top Ligue 1, looking to be the first team besides Lyon to win the title since 2006. Speaking of Lyon, PSG also denied them a sixth straight Champions League title by knocking them out in the quarterfinals.
In attack, they’re led by French internationals Marie-Atoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani with 33 combined goals in the league this season.
Katoto has started 16 of 17 league games this season, which hasn’t left much opportunity for 23-year-old Danish international Signe Bruun (just 4 league starts). She has three goals in just over 500 league minutes, two of them coming as a second-half sub.
Bruun scored for fun at Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark before her move to Paris (62 goals in 89 games) but isn’t going to get the consistent minutes to show that quality at PSG.
She could be a phenomenal signing for any top-level team looking for a striker, and why not the Red Stars?
The Recently Injured Star In Need of Games: Ewa Pajor, Wolfsburg
The four-time defending Frauen Bundesliga champions are well known for being an exporter of world-class talent (Pernille Harder, Caroline Graham Hansen, former Red Star Yuki Nagasato). Given her recent success, it seems odd that Polish international Ewa Pajor hasn’t yet joined that group. Over the previous two seasons, she scored 40 goals in 36 league games before an injury that held her out of the 2020/21 season until this March.
When fit, Pajor is probably out of the Red Stars league and, at 24-years-old, still has time for that big move. But, having just returned from injury and in need of games, a loan to the NWSL could make sense with the timing.
A big plus is that Poland did not qualify for this summer’s Olympics. Could Wolfsburg be convinced to let Pajor stay through the NWSL season? Maybe not, but it’s worth asking.
The Pipe Dream: Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, Bordeaux
Ok, hear me out. Take out the biggest teams in Europe and go one step below; who’s the best striker you could get? Bunny Shaw is currently tied with PSG’s Katoto with 20 goals to lead Ligue 1, a phenomenal sophomore season after scoring 10 goals last year.
Shaw scored 27 goals in 35 games for the University of Tennessee before ultimately deciding to pursue opportunities in Europe rather than the NWSL.
Much like Pajor, she is 24 primed to be scooped up by a bigger club (Lyon are not going to take well to potentially coming up empty handed this season, and Shaw would be an obvious target for a team whose motto might as well be ‘the rich get richer’).
Between the introduction of allocation money and the expanded ownership group, the Red Stars have more money available to distribute on the roster via transfer fees and salaries than ever before.
It’s an extreme long-shot, but I’d push all my chips to the center of the table if there’s even the slightest chance of brining Shaw back stateside.
Hot Time’s Choice: Beth England, Chelsea
Does saying the Red Stars should sign Sam Kerr’s backup sound like a cop-out answer to the Red Stars offensive issues? Yes, it absolutely does. But that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong answer!
Beth England has 6 goals and 8 assists this season in 18 WSL games but just 9 starts (as compared to 20 games and 17 starts for Kerr). Over the previous two seasons, England was an undisputed starter and scored 26 goals in 33 games.
While it took time for Kerr to settle, she has supplanted England in the depth chart but England’s stats remain eye-popping (according to FBref, she’s in the 80th percentile or higher among forwards for non-penalty expected goals, expected assists, shot creating actions, passes attempted, touches in the opposing penalty area and progressive passes received). She is a world-class striker and at 26-years-old is at the peak of her powers. I highly doubt she’s content to simply be a rotation option at club level.
The combination of elite talent and a downturn in minutes make a England an ideal fit for the Red Stars if she’s open to a move across the pond.
And if it were to work out, Chicago would have Sam Kerr to thank.