In a quick turnaround for two teams that suffered hard loses in their previous NWSL games, the Chicago Red Stars head to New Jersey Wednesday night to take on Sky Blue FC in their first meeting of the season.

Chicago is coming off a big 4-1 loss to the Boston Breakers this past Saturday. Now at the bottom of the pack in the NWSL with a 0-2-1 record, the Red Stars have managed only one point on the season.

Sky Blue FC is returning home after a two-game stint on the road and a recent loss to the Western New York Flash. The loss was Sky Blue’s first of the season and dropped them into the middle of the NWSL standings with 4 points.

Will Chicago be able to capitalize on Sky Blue’s recent loss and make it two in a row for the opposition, or can Sky Blue rebound and keep the Red Stars out of the win column?

What the Red Stars need to do

The Red Stars have taken to playing many of their games in the middle of the park, with their strength lying in Lori Chalupny, Leslie Osborne, and Zakiya Bywaters. They have been unable to find a pass and get the ball in the back of the net, however,as Chicago has only tallied two goals in their first three matches while conceding seven.

The focus for the Red Stars should be collectively pushing up the field and getting the defense in on the attack. Chicago has found the finishing touch once inside the 18, as Chulpny and Bywaters have shown.

Chicago’s midfield has the ability to move the ball up towards the 18 but needs the support of its defense if the final pass is not available. The Red Stars are often guilty of clearing the ball up into space with no one on the other end to collect.

Chicago can also look to the talent waiting on the bench. We’ve seen little of Jessica McDonald this season, despite scoring five goals in preseason action. Inka Grings, a forward from Germany, has yet to step on the field for the Red Stars. Grings is the third all-time scorer for the German national team, with 64 goals in 16 years (1996-2012)

What Sky Blue needs to do

Led by Christie Rampone, the Sky Blue defense has been solid, giving up only three goals so far this season. Western New York was able to break down Sky Blue’s defense in the box in their previous game, but the good news for Sky Blue is that Chicago has had trouble getting into the 18. It will be up to the back line of Courtney Goodsen, Caitlin Foord, and Kendall Johnson to make sure goalkeeper Brittany Cameron faces as few shots as possible.

Though Sky Blue’s strength comes from the back, they show flair up top with Lisa De Vanna and Sophie Schmidt. Schmidt is on a two-game scoring streak and is hoping to continue with crosses being served in by Kelley O’Hara.

The key for Sky Blue is to put their loss to Western New York behind them and focus on the task at hand. Chicago can be a formidable opponent, but, on paper, Sky Blue has the upper hand. A win at home can get the team back on track.

Additional Notes

  • Shannon Boxx recently underwent exploratory arthroscopic surgery on her right knee and will be unavailable.
  • Kelley O’Hara obtained two yellow cards in her first three games. League rules state that a player will be suspended one match and fined an undisclosed amount after collecting her fifth yellow card.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Yurcak Field. The match will be streamed via YouTube on the NWSL channel.