NWSL Fall Series Preview: Chicago Red Stars vs Sky Blue FC

Chicago Red Stars in action. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Chicago Red Stars in action. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

Here’s a breakdown of the NWSL Fall Series preview between the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC

Despite a disappointing loss in the first game, the Chicago Red Stars have started the NWSL Fall Series with an impressive performance. Now they’re set to face down another team that they saw in the Challenge Cup: Sky Blue FC. The previous game between the two teams saw some sketchy defending combined with exciting offense and this game may only double that effect.

While both teams have a goalkeeper who can put a claim towards being the best in the NWSL, that doesn’t make it any less likely that there will still be a lot of shots taken. But first, let’s see who won’t be there. I’ve already mentioned previously that the Chicago Red Stars have a number of players on loan, but new to the unavailable list is Savannah McCaskill.

She was sent off on a second yellow in a tackle that could’ve arguably been a straight red against Washington last week. For Sky Blue FC, their main absences are due to injuries, with Carli Lloyd, Caprice Dydasco, and McCall Zerboni all left out of the roster due to various knee injuries.

Expect a good match between Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC

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That doesn’t mean they have no one loaned out as Evelyne Viens and Elizabeth Eddy are playing in Europe as well as Nahomi Kawasumi who has gone to Japan until next season. Mallory Pugh is on the roster and has even made an appearance so far, but she is still recovering from an injury that kept her out of the Challenge Cup.

Sky Blue FC has a long and fairly disappointing history in American Women’s Soccer. Winning the WPS Championship in their first season in 2009, Sky Blue hasn’t really been good at any point since. However, this year things seem different. They’ve made a ton of amazing moves to improve the team.

Unfortunately, most of those big changes have been in the attack. Kailen Sheridan is still possibly the best goalkeeper in the NWSL, maybe even the world. But she’s the goalkeeper and she can only do so much. With a defense that’s constantly struggled to make her work easy for her, she’s likely in for another full game of pressure from Chicago.

There still have been changes. Sky Blue FC has made sure of it. Even with so many important players out injured or on loan, Sky Blue’s attack is one of the most enviable in the NWSL. First of all, there’s USWNT regular Mallory Pugh, who recently arrived from a draft day trade with Washington.

Combine that with another major trade that sent them Midge Purce, one of the most versatile and explosive players in the league who really found success in 2019. Another player who found success in 2019 was Paige Monaghan, a rookie that season who specifically scored her first goal against the Red Stars and earned a regular spot on the team.

Up top is Ifeoma Onumonu, who was almost an afterthought before the Challenge Cup but is now an important part of the offense. Basically, Sky Blue FC has an attack that is proven to not just be able to score but specifically score on Chicago.

This is incredibly bad news for the Chicago Red Stars who are already missing out on a lot of their top choices in defense. If the squad that traveled for the Washington game is any indication, the Red Stars are without Casey Short, Julie Ertz, Sarah Gorden, Tierna Davidson, and Arin Wright.

The official Fall Series roster only confirms Ertz to be unavailable, so the others may show up in this match. However, if they aren’t then Chicago will be in massive trouble. Despite a good performance from Zoey Goralski at left back, Bianca St. Georges just didn’t have the same magic she had in the Challenge Cup and Zoe Morse and Hannah Davison are still too new to the NWSL. Alyssa Naeher, another top world class goalkeeper in this game, will have to deal with pretty much the same problem as her counterpart on the other team with a defense who won’t be doing her much favors.

On the other hand, the Chicago Red Stars saw a massive uptick in attacking quality in their previous game against the Washington Spirit. While the team’s attacking in the Challenge Cup felt a bit unfocused and frankly harmless, the game against Washington saw a much more dangerous Red Stars team. McCaskill’s absence will absolutely hurt the team in this game, but even after her ejection in the first half Chicago still kept their foot on the gas and continued to push the Spirit. Back at 11 on the pitch should see the team hopefully get back to that dangerous attack.

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Projected XI

Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3): Alyssa Naeher; Bianca St. Georges, Zoe Morse, Hanna Davison, Zoey Goralski; Morgan Gautrat, Vanessa DiBernardo, Danielle Colaprico; Kealia Watt, Dani Rhodes, Sarah Luebbert

Sky Blue FC (4-2-3-1): Kailen Sheridan; Estelle Johnson, Mandy Freeman, Gina Lewandowski, Imani Dorsey; Sarah Woldmoe, Jennifer Cudjoe; Paige Monaghan, Mallory Pugh, Midge Purce;  Ifeoma Onumonu

How to Watch

Sunday, September 20th, 12:00 PM CDT; At SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL, online with CBS All-Access and Twitch (foreign markets only)