Chicago Red Stars Vs Portland Thorns: Challenge Cup Preview

Chicago Red Stars, Kealia Watt (Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Chicago Red Stars, Kealia Watt (Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

After both teams disappointingly lost their opening match in the NWSL Challenge Cup, the Chicago Red Stars and the Portland Thorns face one another in a must-win tie.

The first round of games in the NWSL Challenge Cup are over. We saw a lot of rust, and both the Chicago Red Stars and the Portland Thorns suffered from it with losses in each of their games. Now they’ll go up against each other in a game that both teams will view as a must-win.

With the extremely shortened schedule, injuries are going to be unfortunately common, especially during the early stages of the tournament. For the Red Stars, defender Tierna Davidson and midfielder Danielle Colaprico were on the injury report for the last game, though Colaprico did see some action. She should be fully recovered.

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For the Portland Thorns, starting goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and first overall pick of the 2020 NWSL Draft, Sophia Smith, missed the opening defeat to the North Carolina Courage. They are expected to miss the Red Stars match and could be out for a while yet, though information is sketchy.

This is only part of what the Portland Thorns are missing. One of their main advantages, the crowd at Providence Park, will play no factor here. Their top player, Tobin Heath, opted out of the tournament due to the risk of COVID. In completely normal off-season moves, full-back Ellie Carpenter left the club and the Thorns traded away Midge Purce, Emily Sonnet, and Caitlin Foord. While not completely hollowed out, Portland has a big uphill battle in this tournament.

Despite missing key players, some of the replacements could start elsewhere in the league. To step in for Franch, the Thorns started Bella Bixby, who didn’t seem at all out of place. Meanwhile, striker Simone Charley continues to impress despite seemingly not getting the respect she deserves from coach Mark Parsons. Her off-the-ball awareness is great and she knows how to score goals when given the chance. If Portland wants to win, she needs to start.

Goals, too, is where the Chicago Red Stars struggle. Their loss to the Washington Spirit didn’t help the case that the Red Stars need Sam Kerr in order to score goals. The finishing was off, there was a lack of zip and creativity in the final third, and, as has been the case throughout the past two years, the team suffered without Kerr. Someone needs to step up.

There was some hope. While Kealia Watt wasn’t able to score, she did look dangerous, especially when driving at opposing defenders. The Chicago Red Stars should now have a better idea of how they want to play together. Exploiting Watt’s speed and dribbling ability will be a crucial aspect of their attacking gameplan.

Projected XI:

Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3): Alyssa Naeher; Bianca St. Georges, Sarah Gorden, Julie Ertz, Casey Short; Morgan Gautrat, Savannah McCaskill, Danielle Colaprico; Yuki Nagasato, Katie Johnson, Kealia Watt

Portland Thorns (4-3-1-2): Bella Bixby; NAME, Emily Menges, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg; Celeste Boureille, Lindsey Horan, Rocky Rodriguez; Christine Sinclair; Tyler Lussi, Simone Charley

dark. Next. Chicago Red Stars Vs Washington Spirit: 3 things we learned

How To Watch:

Wednesday, July 1st, 11:30 AM CDT; At Zions Bank Stadium in Sandy, UT, online with CBS All-Access and Twitch (foreign markets only)