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

Chicago Red Stars. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Red Stars. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

The final game of the NWSL Fall Series has all eyes on the Chicago Red Stars

It’s time for the final game of the NWSL Fall Series for the Chicago Red Stars. After about a month of action, the Community Shield is out of reach. Chicago is out of first place by 3 points; but not only does the Washington Spirit have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Red Stars, but the Portland Thorns also have a 4 goal lead in goal differential and a game in hand.

It seems like it’s it for the Red Stars, but third place is still possible. However, it’s also still possible for Sky Blue FC to take that spot (although not with a Herculean effort from the attack). Let’s look at who’s available first before we dig into what to look for from each team.

With the way that the Fall Series rosters have gone, it’s hard to really tell who’s ready to play and who isn’t. For the Chicago Red Stars, we’ve seen Casey Short, Tierna Davidson, and Arin Wright available from the bench, but only Davidson has seen the pitch. Similarly for Sky Blue FC, Mallory Pugh came off the bench in their first game against Washington but hasn’t made the 18 since.

The Chicago Red Stars are ready to end on a high note

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With the recent announcement of USWNT camp call-ups, Short, Davidson, and Pugh were all on the call-up list. Judging off of that, USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski may request that they get some playing time for match sharpness, so it’s possible that they will be returning to the pitch.

Speaking of “returning to the pitch,” there was one pivotal reason why the last game between the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC ended so lopsided: Kailen Sheridan sitting for the first half.

Whether it was to rest her or simply underestimating Chicago, coach Freya Coombe chose to give backup goalkeeper Didi Haracic a spot start last time out. With the results of that choice clearly on display, it’s likely that Sky Blue will be going with the best goalkeeper in the league from the start in this match.

However, Haracic wasn’t alone in the blame for Sky Blue FC’s 4-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars. Many of the mistakes made were the result of constantly having to react to incredibly quick counterattacks from the Red Stars. This is because the Sky Blue defense seems to just not have the speed to keep up with most of the Chicago attack. Despite appearing fairly solid against Washington, it was Chicago’s quick attacking that left them extremely vulnerable.

That quick attack will be even more dangerous now that Savannah McCaskill has returned to the Chicago Red Stars’ side. After missing the last game due to a suspension, McCaskill will once again be a key player in finding her teammates on the run. If Kealia Watt was enough to break down the Sky Blue defense a few weeks prior, then Watt running onto passes from McCaskill will be absolutely lethal.

The issue for the Chicago Red Stars in this game will be the defensive flanks. If Casey Short returns to the starting squad, the issue may be resolved, but for the entire fall series, it’s been the fullbacks who have made the most mistakes leading to goals. Against Sky Blue, it was a build-up on the left flank that led to a cross for an Onumonu goal. Then, in the last game, it was Camryn Biegalski’s poorly placed back-pass that gave Washington the late equalizer. Chicago can only hope that Case Short will be able to return and shore up that flank.

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Projected XI

Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3): Alyssa Naeher; Casey Short, Sarah Gorden, Tierna Davidson, Bianca St Georges; Morgan Brian, Vanessa DiBernardo, Danielle Colaprico; Sarah Luebbert, Savannah McCaskill, Kealia Watt

Sky Blue FC (4-3-3): Kailen Sheridan; Sabrina Flores, Gina Lewandowski, Mandy Freeman, Imani Dorsey; Sarah Woldmoe, Jennifer Cudjoe, Domi Richardson; Paige Monaghan, Ifeoma Onumonu, Midge Purce

How to Watch

Saturday, October 10th, 11:30 AM CDT; At MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field in Montclair, NJ, online with CBS All-Access and Twitch (foreign markets only)