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Red Stars Report: Julie Ertz injured as Chicago prepares for home opener

The Red Stars will play in front of home supporters for the first time since 2019 on Saturday against Gotham FC; head coach Rory Dames, as well as Alyssa Naeher and Vanessa DiBernardo, spoke to the press.

The Red Stars lined up at SeatGeek Stadium most recently against Kansas City last month behind closed doors in the Challenge Cup.
Shaina Benhiyoun

Between the NWSL Challenge Cup and a 5-0 opening day regular-season loss in Portland, the Red Stars maintain a five-game winless start to the season. They will continue to look for their first win in a home match against Gotham FC.

This will be the first match played in front of fans at SeatGeek Stadium since the 1-0 playoff semifinal win against Portland, all the way back in the Fall of 2019.

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo, along with head coach Rory Dames, spoke in a pre-match press conference on Thursday and answered questions leading up to the home opener.

Julie Ertz Injury Update

Understandably, there has been much concern from Red Stars and USWNT fans alike concerning the Red Stars captain, Julie Ertz, after she was helped off in the 28th minute of the loss to Portland following a knee injury.

At Thursday’s news conference, Red Stars head coach Rory Dames ruled her out for this weekend’s game but did not give many details regarding the seriousness of the injury.

Since then, U.S. Soccer has issued an update on her status. It was confirmed that Ertz suffered a right knee MCL sprain and that she is currently rehabbing. The news is not that good, though; she will miss at least a month, though the Federation is hopeful she will be back in time for the Olympics. Given her critical importance to the USWNT, it is a certainty that they will be working hard to try to get her back in time for Tokyo.

Response to Portland Result

The 5-0 defeat on the West Coast last week was one of the worse results for the Red Stars in recent memory, but both Dames and the players were quick to state that they were already past that and were fully focused on the next game. Dames reiterated that it is essential to have a short memory to participate in this league, and remarked that the issues which exposed the Red Stars defensively last week were addressed in training.

Dames: “It’s been our history that when we have a bad result we usually as a club have a response. I would certainly hope that we would have a strong response this weekend; we’ll find out [at the game]. I would expect the group to have a response, there are too many people that have been here too long not to.”

Alyssa Naeher and Vanessa DiBernardo expressed a similar sentiment and described the training environment as upbeat despite last week’s result.

DiBernardo: “We all know that it’s a long season, and if we can bring the energy and the competitiveness to practice it will hopefully transition onto the pitch and into the game this weekend. We’re looking forward to playing again.”

Return of Fans to SeatGeek Stadium

As mentioned previously, Saturday’s match will be the first in which fans have been allowed to attend a Red Stars home game in any capacity since the 1-0 playoff win over the Portland Thorns in 2019, when 9,218 supporters attended. The coach and players expressed anticipation towards the return of supporters in the stands, with Naeher stating that it will bring “energy and excitement” while describing the challenges of playing behind closed doors over the past 18 months.

Naeher: “We are anxious to get our fans back in the stands, and I think fans want to get back in the stands as well. I think it's going to be great for the city of Chicago, I think we’ve got very supportive fans who are amazing every single game and we’re excited to be able to play in front of them again.”

Dames: “The impact will be gigantic... we know that we disappointed people last week, and we know that we have a responsibility and we’re certainly looking forward to getting in front of whoever comes out this weekend and certainly putting out a much better display of ourselves than we did last weekend.”

The match between the Chicago Red Stars and Gotham FC will be held on Saturday at 7 PM; tickets are publicly available, and the match will also be aired on Paramount+.