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Red Stars 1, Courage 0: A Change of Formation and Fortune

The Chicago Red Stars earned their first home victory of the 2021 season on Saturday by frustrating their old foes from North Carolina

The Red Stars celebrate after Rachel Hill’s goal

On a day of scorching heat in metro-Chicago, the Red Stars exorcised some demons with a 1 – 0 win over the North Carolina Courage at SeatGeek Stadium. In the second game between the two teams since the 2019 NWSL Championship game and the first in an NWSL regular season, a 29th minute goal from Rachel Hill proved the difference as the home side earned their second win of the young 2021 campaign.

Chicago looked to have caught North Carolina by surprise in the first half, as Rory Dames and his staff deployed a 3-4-3 formation with Sarah Gorden and Casey Krueger joining Tierna Davidson on defense and Hill and Arin Wright playing as wing-backs.

“Our principles don’t change no matter what formation we’re in,” said Hill, who usually plays as a striker or winger. “We still press hard, we still get in a block together as compact as we can.”

The pressing proved effective as the Red Stars managed to contain North Carolina midfielders Debinha and Sam Mewis. Those players were particularly the responsibility of midfielders Morgan Gautrat and Sarah Woldmoe, who both had very strong performances.

“The tighter we keep the lines, the easier it is for Morgan and I to do our job,” Woldmoe said of their role in Saturday’s tactics. “Morgan and I talked before the game about the mentality, the aggression that we needed to bring in there today.”

Red Stars coach Rory Dames praised both players’ selflessness, knowing that both would often prefer to help the attack more than they were assigned to in this particular game.

“They both like to cheat a little higher and they had to be very disciplined to stay today,” Dames said. He also mentioned that these particular tactics were the original plan for the 2019 NWSL Championship until Tierna Davidson was ruled out with an ankle injury.

The second half saw the return of Red Stars midfielder Alyssa Mautz after multiple knee injuries, the 29 minutes of action her first since May 3rd, 2019.

Entering an international break, the Red Stars next face the Washington Spirit at home on June 19th and will get a few days off before turning their attention to continually improving their on-field performance.

“We still have a lot of work to do and we need to get a lot better,” Dames said. “We need to make sure we take every opportunity to train and take advantage of them while still making sure the players can detach a little bit and be not only physically healthy but mentally healthy.”