Chicago Red Stars Vs Sky Blue FC: Challenge Cup Preview

Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, Kailen Sheridan (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, Kailen Sheridan (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

The NWSL Challenge Cup semi-finals see the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC take on one another. Here is a full match preview.

It’s another knockout game for the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL Challenge Cup. This time, they are up against Sky Blue FC, a team that has seen massive changes over the past couple of years to the point that they are now on the brink of becoming contenders.

Both teams will compete with one another, of course, but their biggest opponent is fatigue. This is their sixth game in less than five weeks. Coming off a very minimal preseason and all while living at a hotel, it is a challenging schedule. As evidenced by the quarter-finals, everyone is tired.

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There are also significant injuries to deal with. For the Chicago Red Stars, Yuki Nagasato, Morgan Gautrat, and Tierna Davidson will all miss out. For Sky Blue FC, Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh notably pulled out before the tournament started with training injuries. They also lost Caprice Dydasco in training. Paige Monaghan is listed as questionable, though she is likely to feature.

Monaghan, combined with Nahomi Kawasumi and new signing Ifeoma Onumonu, has been a major part of why Sky Blue FC are ready to compete. Their collective movement is superb, despite only picking up two goals all tournament. Meanwhile, possibly the best goalkeeper in the NWSL, Kailen Sheridan, who has made 20 saves and kept three clean sheets thus far, helps keep things tight at the other end.

Sheridan’s statistics are even more impressive given the defense in front of her. The Sky Blue defense does not handle pressure very well. With some confusing lineup choices, including fielding standout forward Midge Purce at right-back, the backline rarely looks comfortable. Sheridan, then, makes up for all of this and more.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Red Stars continue to struggle to challenge opposing defenses. They have nice combinations, but they rarely go anywhere. The forwards continue to refuse to shoot and there is a lack of clinical play in and around the penalty area.

If the attack comes together, the Red Stars should win. Alyssa Naeher. Chicago’s own elite goalkeeper, alongside a defensive unit of Julie Ertz, Sarah Gorden, Casey Short, and Bianca St. Georges makes for a defense that should handle what is thrown at them. They’ve proven as much throughout the tournament. If the Red Stars can finally click in the final third, they should have enough to ease past Sky Blue here.

Projected XI:

Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3): Alyssa Naeher; Bianca St. Georges, Sarah Gorden, Julie Ertz, Casey Short; Savannah McCaskill, Vanessa DiBernardo, Danielle Colaprico; Kealia Watt, Katie Johnson, Rachel Hill

Sky Blue FC (4-3-3): Kailen Sheridan; Midge Purce, Estelle Johnson, Gina Lewandowski, Imani Dorsey; Sarah Woldmoe, Jennifer Cudjoe, McCall Zerboni; Paige Monaghan, Ifeoma Onumonu, Nahomi Kawasumi

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How To Watch:

Wednesday, July 22nd, 9:00 PM CDT; At Zions Bank Stadium in Sandy, UT, online with CBS All-Access and Twitch (foreign markets only)