Depending on your point of view, for the Chicago Red Stars the 2019 NWSL Championship loss to the North Carolina Courage is a game to remember or a game to forget.
“I think any time we play North Carolina it’s a huge game for us,” said midfielder Danielle Colaprico, who started in the 4-0 loss on October 27, 2019. “We always have that [game] in the back of our heads so I think it’s important for us to come out in this game and put together a full 90 minutes. I feel like these games between us two teams can be won or lost in a minute of the game and if we don’t put together the full 90 minutes we won’t come out on top.”
For head coach Rory Dames, however, the game is significant because of the Courage’s current abilities and the Red Stars’ quest to continually improve, not because of anything in the past.
“I don’t think because of what happened in 2019, we’re not the same team we were in 2019,” Dames said.
For their part, the Courage no longer have Crystal Dunn, Heather O’Reilly or Jaelene Daniels, but coming off a 5-0 drubbing of Racing Louisville are no less formidable an opponent. For Dames, they’re simply a tough team who will present another opportunity for the Red Stars to measure their progress as a team in 2021.
“My biggest thing tomorrow isn’t necessarily the win or the loss, but does the group believe that they can compete?,” Dames said. “Does the group come out together and fight for 90 minutes and compete together and have each others’ back?”
A key part of the Red Stars process of becoming better unit is the integration of new addition Sarah Woldmoe, who started the last two games in midfield alongside Colaprico.
“I would say that I don’t’ feel new anymore,” Woldmoe said after playing 176 total minutes against Kansas City and Houston. “Some of that comes from just having a couple months now to settle in but I think a bigger part of that comes from the players around me and just feeling extremely comfortable playing with the players around me and also being in a midfield with fantastic players who are willing to talk and communicate and help me out.”
Colaprico and Woldmoe both know how important their jobs will be tomorrow against the likes of Debinha and Sam Mewis to the degree that their performances may be the decisive factor on the day.
“We talk about it a lot as a team that the game will be won and lost in midfield,” Colaprico said. “If we let the game turn into a transition battle, we’ll just make it that much harder on ourselves.”
- Bianca St. Georges will depart for Canadian national team duty on Saturday and thus will not be available for the game. Rory Dames said she would have been on a minutes restriction had she been available.
- Alyssa Naeher and Tierna Davidson will depart for USWNT duty on Sunday night ahead of games against Portugal, Jamaica and Nigeria. Despite the Red Stars having two games between the Nigeria game and a pre-Olympic friendly with Mexico, Rory Dames said it’s possible Naeher and Davidson won’t be available for those games. If that were the case, Saturday’s game could be Naeher and Davidson’s last for the Red Stars until mid August.