Chicago Red Stars Vs North Carolina Courage: Week 13 Preview

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 28: Julie Ertz of United States gestures during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Quarter Final match between France and USA at Parc des Princes on June 28, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Marcio Machado/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 28: Julie Ertz of United States gestures during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Quarter Final match between France and USA at Parc des Princes on June 28, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Marcio Machado/Getty Images) /

This weekend, the Chicago Red Stars return to a sold-out crowd to face one of the best teams in the league, the North Carolina Courage. Here is a full Week 13 preview.

It’s time for the Chicago Red Stars to finally return to SeatGeek Stadium. It’s been announced that the lower bowl of the stadium is sold out and there are rumors of opening up the upper deck to fit even more people in. That’s around 16,500 people who are showing up to see a soccer game in Bridgeview. That’s impressive for soccer this year, let alone women’s soccer.

This weekend’s match against the North Carolina Courage is an important one for the Red Stars, and the crowd is certainly one part of the equation. But the Chicago Red Stars must provide more than just a crowd if they want to beat the Courage.

After Daniele Colaprico sat for the last game against the Houston Dash, she is listed as questionable. I wouldn’t expect coach Rory Dames to push her right now especially since two USWNT players in her position have returned. Nikki Stanton is suspended for the game due to yellow card accumulation and Maria Sánchez is currently away on international duty with Mexico. On the injury list for North Carolina are Crystal Dunn and Kristen Hamilton who are both listed as questionable. Much like the Red Stars, though, they have the depth to make up for it.

The North Carolina Courage come into this game in a much different position than their hosts. After playing against the Red Stars right before the World Cup, the Courage have only lost a single game. Since then that lone loss to the Seattle Reign, they are on a three-game winning streak and are now getting all their World Cup players back.

About those World Cup players, probably the biggest boost will be the reunification of one of the best ‘back triangles in the league — the two center-backs and the goalkeeper. For the NC Courage, this features center-backs Abby Dahlkemper and Abby Erceg and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.

This a primary reason why the Courage have been one of the best teams in the league: they have one of the best defenses. Now that the defense is back to full strength, it will be incredibly difficult for the Red Stars’ offense to break through.

Let’s talk about the Chicago Red Stars’ offense real quick. Last week, Dames focused less on the offensive side of the ball and implemented a more defensive, conservative game plan. This bunkering got him a win, but now with essentially a full squad, he needs to let his offense fix themselves. As I touched on while talking about Katie Johnson in the recap of the Houston game, the hardest thing for a striker to do while not scoring goals is to score a goal. When the entire team hadn’t scored over the course of three games, it’s hard for everyone to get back into it.

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Thankfully for Chicago, Julie Ertz is now available again after the USWNT’s World Cup win. Her return is the biggest thing for the Chicago Red Stars right now. The defense needs her leadership, the midfield needs her control. She will run all day, has excellent control of matches, and can orchestrate the play from deep with lovely, timed passing. She was the biggest absentee during the World Cup. Nikki Stanton is not and never will be Ertz. Stanton is her own type of player. What the Red Stars needed was Ertz and it’s Ertz that they will get back in this game.

It’s going to be interesting to see this team whole again going into the second half of the season. They are not out of the playoff race and have the personnel quality to put together a run of victories, but it is a tough start against the best team in the NWS.

Projected XI:

Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3): Alyssa Naeher; Arin Wright, Tierna Davidson, Katie Naughton, Casey Short; Morgan Brian, Julie Ertz, Vanessa DiBernardo; Yuki Nagasato, Sam Kerr, Savannah McCaskill

North Carolina Courage (4-4-2): Stephanie Labbe; Jalene Hinkle, Abby Erceg, Abby Dahlkemper, Merritt Mathias; Denise O’Sullivan, McCall Zerboni, Sam Mewis, Debinha; Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams

Next. Houston Dash Vs Chicago Red Stars: 3 things we learned. dark

How To Watch:

Sunday, July 21st, 5:00 PM CDT; At SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL, on NBC Sportsnet Chicago, and online with the Yahoo Sports App