It’s important for any athlete to have a poor memory, especially after a bad loss. The Chicago Red Stars return home to SeatGeek Stadium to try again at starting the 2021 NWSL season. Waiting for them will be Gotham FC, the new and improved version of Sky Blue FC. After a loss that made everyone wonder if the rest of the league had caught up to them, it’s up to the Red Stars to prove that they are still just as capable as they’ve always been.
Gotham FC does not appear to be nursing any big injuries going into the game, but the Chicago Red Stars have one big injury that may linger for quite some time: Julie Ertz. I’ll get into the significance of her absence in a bit, but returning for Chicago will be Morgan Gautrat, who missed the last game due to a suspension.
Here are three things to look out for in the Red Stars home opener:
While the score was distressing enough, that wasn’t even the biggest concern following the Chicago Red Stars’ loss to Portland. A single loss is one thing, but seeing Julie Ertz barely limp off the pitch due to a knee injury is something much worse. Ertz was supposed to get an MRI immediately the Monday following the game, but there was no statement on the extent of her injury. In fact, there still isn’t any update. In his weekly pre-game press conference, head coach Rory Dames said that all he could say is that she will not be playing in the match on Saturday and any further questions should be referred to the US Soccer Federation.
The fact that Dames does not seem to be able to talk about Ertz’s injury seems incredibly concerning. Ertz is not just the team’s leader, but the team’s best player. The way that her injury is being talked about, we can only speculate as to the severity. It’s certain that she’ll be out for the game against Gotham, but when will she be back? Will she be out for a month? A season? More? Knowing that she’ll be missing is bad, but what’s worse is not knowing when she’ll be able to come back.
All I can say is that based on the handling of the topic, I’ve got a bad feeling about the severity of this injury.
I think everyone needs to take a second and appreciate what has happened in New Jersey for soccer. In such a short period of time, this team has gone from being Sky Blue FC, the team who only picked up 9 total points, a single win, over the course of a season to Gotham FC, a potential powerhouse of the NWSL. That 9 point season was just three years ago. Alyse Lahue deserves so much for what she’s done for the club.
Gotham is just one of a number of teams that have really stepped up to the plate this year and are out for the most improved team in the league. But when taking history into account, the winner has to be Gotham, who is led by Kailen Sheridan, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and Midge Purce, one of the best scorers in the league. What a turnaround.
Shaking Out the Numb
On the optimistic side of things, this is the Chicago Red Stars’ first home game of the 2021 season. In fact, it’s their first game with fans at SeatGeek Stadium since 2019 at the semi-final win against Portland. With the full stadium open to allow for social distancing, it’s likely that the Red Stars might actually get a similar crowd to what they normally get for a home game. While that seems like a bit of a backhanded compliment, I’d also add that the 2019 season brought in a lot of extra interest in the league than they had before. This means that once things fully open up, they may end up keeping the expanded seating.
The important thing is that while the Chicago Red Stars took an absolute sucker-punch to the mouth on Sunday, they can take this game as the true new beginning of the season. The Portland game will count on their record, but this game needs to be the one where they really set the tone.
Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3): Alyssa Naeher; Casey Krueger, Tierna Davidson, Sarah Gorden, Arin Wright; Morgan Gautrat, Vanessa DiBernardo, Danielle Colaprico; Kealia Watt, Katie Johnson, Mallory Pugh
Gotham FC (4-3-3): Kailen Sheridan; Caprice Dydasco, Mandy Freeman, Estelle Johnson, Erica Skroski; Allie Long, Carli Lloyd, Jennifer Cudjoe; Paige Monaghan, Evelyn Viens, Midge Purce
How To Watch
Saturday, May 22nd, 7:00 PM CDT; At SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL, online on Paramount+