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The Final Push: OL Reign vs. Chicago Red Stars Week 18 Preview

The Chicago Red Stars take on fellow playoff contenders, OL Reign, in a crucial match this Friday.

SOCCER: JUN 04 NWSL - OL Reign at Chicago Red Stars Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chicago Red Stars have just five games left to play in the regular season as they continue to battle for a spot in the playoffs. Going into Friday’s match, the Red Stars hold the final playoff position, sitting sixth in the table.

Friday’s opponent, the OL Reign, currently sit one place and one point ahead of the Chicago outfit, and will most definitely be looking to further the gap between them and the Red Stars in the table.

The Red Stars on the other hand will be looking to repeat their result against the OL Reign from earlier in the season. When the two sides met in the league in June, the Red Stars walked away with all three points thanks to a Mallory Pugh goal. The Chicago Red Stars are hopefully finally coming into form at the right time. A 4-0 victory against Racing Louisville in their last match was only the team’s second victory from their last seven. Yuki Nagasato bagged her first two goals of the season against Louisville, while Mal Pugh provided the other two goals. If the Red Stars’ forward players can continue their scoring in this final stretch of the season, the Chicago side will most definitely retain their playoff spot.

Chicago Red Stars all-time record vs OL Reign: 10W-7D-9L

Previously on…

The OL Reign are a dangerous side who have the assets to hurt any team with their attacking firepower. Players like Rose Lavelle, Megan Rapinoe, Bethany Balcer, and Jordyn Huitema will look to trouble the Red Stars’ defense in a must-win game for both sides.

Five of the Reign’s seven wins this season have been at home, and in nine home matches, the Reign have only been beaten once on their stomping ground. The Reign have won their last two matches, and are in good goal-scoring form going into Friday’s match, having scored six in these last two fixtures. The key for a Reign victory will be effectively utilizing their home crowd advantage and their star-studded offense.

Suggested Lineup

In their last match against Racing Louisville, Naeher and the back three kept a clean sheet for the first time since the beginning of August, so they should keep it as is. Sarah Luebbert and Bianca St. Georges should start as the two wide players/wingbacks in midfield, while lineup locks Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo will command the engine room. Chris Petrucelli should start the same front three from the match against Louisville after scoring four goals.

Keys to the Match

Neutralize the Attack: The Red Stars’ biggest worry should be regarding the Reign’s star-studded attack. It will be crucial that veteran Alyssa Naeher organizes her defense to thwart the Reign going forward.

The Red Stars’ two wingbacks will have to remain disciplined in defense to neutralize Rapinoe and Huitema. Additionally, Colaprico and DiBernardo will have to organize to ensure that the midfield is not overrun. The Reign like to play with three in central midfield, and DiBernardo and Colaprico will oftentimes face three on two situations in the middle of the park. Defensive discipline is key in this match.

Finish Chances: The Red Stars have scored four goals in their last three matches, with all four goals coming in their last fixture against Louisville. With the goal drought now hopefully over, the Red Stars’ front three looks to be finally coming into finishing form as they enter a match that is crucial to their season’s success. An emphatic win with lots of gals from Pugh and company could show their rivals in the table that the Red Stars are serious contenders for this season’s playoffs.

How To Watch

Date + Time: September 9 @ 9:00 P.M. CST

TV: The U

Stream:Paramount+, Twitch (international)

Final Thoughts

This match is crucial to the Red Stars’ playoff hopes. Losing Friday’s match will increase the Reign’s advantage to four points over the Chicago side, who is currently on the cusp of making the playoffs. These are points that the Red Stars cannot afford to drop if they want to seriously contend for a playoff spot. In what will be a tough match between two very talented sides, I predict that the Red Stars will come away with a massive 3-2 victory.