With a lukewarm performance in a boiling stadium against Gotham, the Chicago Red Stars will be coming home to a much cooler SeatGeek Stadium to host the Washington Spirit for the second time this season. This, their third matchup overall this season, will be the final time they will see eachother in the 2021 regular season. Despite Chicago’s lacking performances this season, they still have not lost against the Spirit, picking up a late draw in mid-June and kick-starting Own Goal’s legendary run with a win in early July. Let’s see who won’t be available for this final game between the two.
Both the Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit appear to be coming in with a mostly clean bill of health. There’s still been no word on Tatumn Milazzo’s condition as far as I could tell, but as I said last week, it seemed to be an issue relating to the heat. Bianca St Georges is still suspended with her second straight red of the season coming last week in New Jersey. It is not likely to be overturned.
Here’s three things to watch out for in this one.
Preseason For Everyone
This NWSL season is really weird. For a solid minute there, the Chicago Red Stars were first in the league with a negative goal differential. The league has gotten so extremely even that half of the teams in the NWSL have exactly 5 wins on the season. So this is why when I say that the Washington Spirit are in third place and the Red Stars are fourth, these standings are about as meaningful as points in an improv show.
I’ve already given one of my favorite lines in sports, “Something Stupid Always Happens,” but in this situation my other favorite line applies: “It’s still preseason for everyone.” No matter how far into the season it is, everyone’s still trying to figure it out. We are now reaching halfway through the season and there really isn’t any sort of pattern of behavior for anyone. Chicago’s been relying on own goals, the powerhouse OL Reign can’t seem to win a game, and despite not winning a single game yet this season, I could still see Kansas City somehow making the playoffs by the end of this.
It’s still preseason. None of us really know anything to this point.
As I mentioned earlier, the temperature in Bridgeview should be much better around kickoff than it has been in a while for both the Chicago area and for the Chicago Red Stars, who were out in a heat index of around 93°F last week. However, the Washington Spirit’s offense is probably going to be making them sweat the whole game long. Previously, I spoke about Trinity Rodman’s importance to Washington, but in general the entire attack has been absolutely outstanding.
Ashley Hatch has recently solidified her position as the sole leader in the golden boot race with her 6th goal of the season coming against Racing Louisville and both Ashley Sanchez and Rodman got their respective 3rd goals of the season while playing shorthanded against Gotham in the game before that. The Red Stars were able to contain these three in their last matchup, but since coach Richie Burke dropped Ashley Sanchez back to the 10 spot, Washington has scored two goals per game. And with the defense showing a lot of signs of struggle, Chicago is going to be feeling the heat.
Just One More
Last week was probably one of the first times all season that it felt like the Chicago Red Stars were actually on the front-foot and working towards a goal. Unfortunately, that specific goal never really came. Yes, Makenzy Doniak got one in the 96th minute, but it was the result of a scramble and not actually a goal that was built. With the flow of the game, it felt like the Red Stars were constantly in the driver’s seat. But that flow just kept flowing to nowhere. Each chance built into the next, but it never really even reached the penalty area very often. The Gotham defense deserved credit for the way they played, but this seems to be a larger issue with the Red Stars’ inability to find that final pass.
The Chicago Red Stars have been a really solid passing team in recent years. At least in the final third. They really like passing the ball in the final third until they finally play themselves out of an actual chance. There’s just not enough players on the team that have an innate desire to score. On counter-attacks, on odd-player rushes, the Red Stars seem to prefer to wait until everyone, including the opposition, shifts up into that area. One of the most common goals in the NWSL is the long counter-attack and if Chicago passes up on those opportunities, they’re missing out on easy chances and easy points.
Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3): Cassie Miller; Tatumn Milazzo, Sarah Gorden, Kayla Sharples, Arin Wright; Morgan Gautrat, Vanessa DiBernardo, Sarah Woldmoe; Kealia Watt, Makenzy Doniak, Mallory Pugh
Washington Spirit (4-3-3): Aubrey Bledsoe; Anna Heilferty, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Dorian Bailey, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez; Ashley Hatch, Tara McKeown, Trinity Rodman
How To Watch
Sunday, August 1st, 5:00 PM CDT; At SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL, online on Paramount+