Chicago Red Stars vs Portland Thorns: A Big Beautiful Nothing

Portland Thorns, Morgan Weaver (Photo by Rob Gray/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Portland Thorns, Morgan Weaver (Photo by Rob Gray/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

The Chicago Red Stars are becoming a very frustrating team very quickly. Having taken a draw in their first match of the Challenge Cup, they’ve now lost the second game to the Portland Thorns. This game was considered as an early decider for who would be the favorites in the group going forward and a 1-0 loss may very well tank Chicago’s chances. Let’s look at the match

In general, the Chicago Red Stars played like themselves. They held a solid amount of possession in the opposing end for most of the game, with great work on the wing between Kealia Watt and Vanessa DiBernardo. In fact, in the 16th minute, DiBernardo picked out Makenzy Doniak in the box, but Doniak was unable to control the ball well enough to shoot. The next big chance would be around the 30th minute, with rookie right back Tatumn Milazzo hitting a rocket from the top of the box at the bottom left corner. Unfortunately, that shot went wide.

The second half started with more domination from the home team, as Chicago continued pressing into Portland’s third. But in the 52nd minute, the Thorns found Tyley Lussi with a pass that just barely got around Casey Krueger and Lussi had some space in front of her. She chipped in a ball that barely hit the wrong part of the crossbar as it was sent back out. But this situation would repeat itself in almost the exact same way with Morgan Weaver finding the ball just past Krueger as well. This time, Weaver did not make the same mistake, bouncing it off the right post and in. After the goal, the Red Stars struggled to maintain the same hold on the game as before and the 1-0 result would hold.

Here are three things that we learned from this game.

Just a Touch Short

Makenzy Doniak did a lot in this game for the Chicago Red Stars. And that’s a major badge of honor when it comes to a team that didn’t really do much. I’ll get into that bit later, but Doniak deserves a bit of praise for her ability to find the right places to be all over the attack. Unfortunately, the issue was getting the ball to her.

After finding herself in the right position to take the ball forward, Doniak was consistently just not fast enough or physical enough to get the shot off or even get to the ball. I mentioned earlier in the article about her chance in the 16th minute, but there were many more chances where she simply could not outrun the Portland defender. The way the Red Stars play, there needs to be a fast striker who can get past those players. Is that something she can work on? I don’t know. Maybe the tactics can change to suit her, as she clearly knows where to be.

Not Even Supposed to be Here

In a shock decision on Tuesday, the National Women’s Soccer League Disciplinary Committee chose to rescind Morgan Weaver’s red card. Weaver received her red card when, late into the Portland Thorns’ first game against Kansas City, she grabbed a hold of Kristen Edmonds and brought her down way behind the play. This led to a melee in injury time that resulted in both players being shown red. Portland owner Merrit Paulson defended his player on Twitter and in a now-deleted tweet said the decision would be appealed.

And Weaver’s red card was appealed. And it was rescinded, with Edmonds receiving an additional game suspension for throwing a punch. This meant that while there would still be some level of handicap for Portland with Simone Charley’s suspension, they would be able to start Weaver in this game against the Chicago Red Stars. Weaver ended up scoring the lone goal in this game, a game that she was only allowed to play in due to the NWSL DisCo.

Her impact on this game is directly tied to her actions in the previous game. Take that how you will.

All the Small Things

The Chicago Red Stars are a really really good team. They have the best goalkeeper in the world, Alyssa Naeher. They have a world-class defense led by Julie Ertz, Casey Krueger, Tierna Davidson, and Sarah Gorden. Their midfield three is as solid as it is creative with Daniele Colaprico, Morgan Gautrat, and Vanessa DiBernardo. Kealia Watt is an amazing winger and when Mallory Pugh come back from injury she will be just as good on the opposite side. But even in this perfect world where the entire team is healthy and together, there is no true striker out there.

This game against the Portland Thorns was a shining example of how much this team lacks a striker. Chicago does all the small things right, with beautiful defending and clever passing in the final third. The problem is that they cannot put together a final pass when there is no shot at the end of the possession. And when shots are taken, they are too weak to really trouble the keeper or just not well-placed.

Chicago needs a true striker. That is all. Everything else is just a big beautiful nothing.