Chicago Red Stars vs Orlando Pride: Week 14 Preview

Things are starting to look up a bit for the Chicago Red Stars, which is great considering that we are now over halfway through the season and they’re already in third place in the NWSL. This Sunday, they’ll go up against what may be their opposite in the league, the Orlando Pride. The Pride started off the season incredibly strong, but have absolutely fallen off since late June. Before I explain what to expect, let’s see who to expect.

With the Olympics over, the National Team players should be coming back to their teams soon, but not that soon. Do not expect anyone to be back from Japan. As for those who are already here, the Chicago Red Stars had Vanessa DiBernardo on the injury list last week and with no one appearing to be injured against Washington, there shouldn’t be anyone else added.

Now here’s three things to know going into the match.

Press Start to Resume

While I said earlier that the US Women’s National Team players will not be returning in time for this game, it’s still important to mention how imminent their return is. As the Chicago Red Stars continue to improve this season, the defense has still struggled quite a bit in tough situations. Tatumn Milazzo and Kayla Sharples haven’t exactly filled in for Casey Krueger and Julie Ertz as well as they could’ve.

I would hope that Ertz and Tierna Davidson get some rest before being slotted back into the lineup, but unfortunately I also think that Alyssa Naeher might have an extended absence after hyper-extending her knee against Canada in the semi-final. Cassie Miller has done well at earning her spot as the top backup for the Red Stars and possibly a replacement for Naeher if she is somehow taken in the Expansion Draft.

Main story: Julie Ertz will be back after her injury in the first game of the season. And that can only help to solidify the struggling defense.

Here Comes the Drop

The Orlando Pride have been really weird this season. They went from going unbeaten, even against a stacked Portland Thorns, to an almost immediate free-fall beginning with a 2-1 loss in Houston. Orlando got 4 wins and 3 draws in their first 7 games and have followed that up with 4 losses and 2 draws in their last 6. Not only that, but they’ve lost their head coach, Marc Skinner, who resigned so that he could go and coach Manchester United.

Honestly, I’m unsure of what to think about this team. When trying to come up with a Projected XI, I noticed that they’ve used a different formation in each of their last three games. They’re without some of their best players who are still in Japan, but also Sydney Leroux has had some sort of a career resurgence by scoring 6 goals so far this season. They are currently on a losing skid, but also seem ready to jump right back up. So that’s a bit concerning for the Chicago Red Stars.

Are We Back?

In last week’s recap, I mentioned that the 3-1 win against the Washington Spirit looked like the sort of thing that the Chicago Red Stars normally do. The Red Stars are a good team, but after losing the crutch of having a star striker as a focal point, they didn’t seem to have a real identity. While there’s an argument to be made that Mallory Pugh has simply finally filled that “star striker” role, I think that there’s more to it this time.

Instead of relying on a star player to punt the ball forward to, the team is now being forced to actually reckon with building attacks and setting eachother up in the final third. And while Pugh may be the perpetrator of a lot of spectacular individual efforts, many of these goals are coming from simply overwhelming the opposition with numbers in the box. That’s how Own Goal was scoring and why Pugh is able to break off on those individual runs. The Red Stars are finally trying to play “team ball.”

Projected XI

Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3): Cassie Miller; Tatumn Milazzo, Sarah Gorden, Kayla Sharples, Arin Wright; Morgan Gautrat, Daniele Colaprico, Sarah Woldmoe; Kealia Watt, Rachel Hill, Mallory Pugh

Orlando Pride (4-4-1-1): Ashlyn Harris; Kylie Strom, Ali Krieger, Amy Turner, Courtney Petersen; Crystal Thomas, Gunnhildur Yrsa Jonsdottir, Marisa Viggiano, Jodie Taylor; Taylor Korniek; Sydney Leroux

How To Watch

Sunday, August 8th, 5:00 PM CDT; At SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL, online on Paramount+