NWSL Fall Series Preview: Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Spirit

NWSL (Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
NWSL (Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

The NWSL Fall Series is here as here’s a preview of the Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Spirit

Just when you thought the 2020 NWSL Season was over, it’s back again! Much like the way MLS continued with their regular season after the #MLSisBack Tournament, the NWSL has announced a follow-up of the Challenge Cup. The NWSL Fall Series will have teams grouped up regionally and set to play a series of games within their designated “pod”. For the Chicago Red Stars, that means they will go up against the Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC for the next few weeks. And up first is the Spirit.

The Washington Spirit come into this game with only a couple of changes from the Challenge Cup. But the main change was the trade/departure of Rose Lavelle. In what became a bit of a messy situation, Lavelle signed with Manchester City in the FAWSL after the Challenge Cup. However, there were reported issues with the US Soccer Federation and even after that was cleared, Lavelle’s rights were traded to OL Reign right before her signing was announced in Manchester.

Much like the common refrain about the Red Stars a couple of months ago, these next few games will be huge for the Washington Spirit in figuring out how to go on without Lavelle. While mostly an attacking midfielder, Lavelle still filled a lot of roles for the team’s midfield. She was pivotal in any build-up play for the Spirit and, while not her strong suit, she could handle herself defensively. Losing her is just another massive blow in a series of departures from the earlier off-season that are making Washington look more vulnerable.

Expect a great match between the Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit

More from MLS Multiplex

However, there is one part of the Washington Spirit that is absolutely not vulnerable: The Two Ashleys. Ashley Hatch and Ashley Sanchez showed a lot of promise in the Challenge Cup and have continued that into the first game of the Fall Series against Sky Blue FC. Sanchez was drafted by Washington earlier this year at 4th overall, a pick acquired through the trade that sent Mallory Pugh to Sky Blue.

She has seemed to have taken over the role of the new main facilitator from her position on the left wing. Hatch on the other hand is in her third season in the league, having arrived in Washington after a Rookie of the Year season with North Carolina.

Her main goal during the match is to simply run straight at the defense, not only disrupting the defensive line but tiring out the opponent as the game carries on. This “rip and tear” was excellent when paired with Lavelle and it seems like she’s going to be continuing this sort of attack with Sanchez going forward.

Now let’s move over to the Chicago Red Stars. Since the Challenge Cup ended, a good amount of Red Stars joined the exodus to Europe for a chance to play any sort of regular soccer in 2020. Currently out on loan throughout Europe are Emily Boyd, Makenzy Doniak, Rachel Hill, Cassie Miller, and Kayla Sharples.

Also on loan is Yuki Nagasato, who is set to make history in Japan as the first woman playing in a men’s league after signing with local amateur side Hayabusa Eleven. All are set to return before the start of the 2021 season. One player who won’t be returning though is Michele Vasconcelos, who’s recently been traded to the Utah Royals for allocation money.

All of these transfers are great for the players involved. For the Chicago Red Stars, they only amplify the continued problem of who will take over the goal-scoring position. Hill, Nagasato, and Vasconcelos were all considered to be big contenders to be the new leading striker, but without them, the pool is even more limited.

Really the only hope left on the squad is between Kealia Watt and Savannah McCaskill. Both impressed during the Challenge Cup, with McCaskill having an incredible game against Sky Blue FC in the semi-final and Watt being one of the most dangerous players on the field for the Red Stars, but there are still question marks. Especially after a disappointing attacking performance in the final.

Trending. Sky Blue FC easily holds the keys to a bright future. light

But maybe the disappointment from the Challenge Cup will be enough to fuel the Chicago Red Stars into finally giving an answer as to who will step up. In their first game of the tournament, Washington took advantage of a distracted Chicago team and won. It’s very possible that the Red Stars will be looking for revenge in this coming game. Not only that, but the Red Stars appear to still have most of their stars. While the exact rosters have been difficult to find, none of the Red Stars’ national team players have been reported to be loaned out for the winter.