Chicago Red Stars (3-5-3, 12pts) v. Seattle Reign FC (1-9-2, 5pts)
Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 8:00pm PDT (11pm EDT)
Starfire Sports Stadium, Tukwila, Washington
Watch the Match Here!
Twitter: @ChicagoRedStars @SeattleReignFC
The Chicago Red Stars (3-5-3, 12pts) head to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Reign FC (1-9-2, 5pts) in a match between improving NWSL sides at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington.
The Red Stars and Reign have met once before this season, in a Week 1 match up that ended 1-1 draw as midfielder Christine Nairn put the Reign ahead in the 10th minute, before midfielder Lori Chalupny brought the match level 15 minutes later. Neither side would find the back of the net in the remaining 65 minutes as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
What do the Red Stars need to do?
The Red Stars have been a much-improved side in the month of June, with a record of 3-1-1, including victories over the Portland Thorns on June 2nd and FC Kansas City on June 16, and nearly defeated the Western New York Flash, before Brittany Taylor scored the equalizer in the 89th minute. Two of the three victories have been on the road, as the Red Stars have become a road warrior type squad, earning 10 of their 12 points on the road.
Much of this resurgence can be attributed to the signing on German legends defender Sonja Fuss and forward Inka Grings, who have brought a calming, veteran presence on both offense and defense. Opposing defenses have been forced to collapse in on Grings, and while she only has scored a single goal on the season, her attacking presence has allowed hear teammates to open up the attack. Since the inclusion of Fuss and Grings, the Red Stars have tripled their total goalscoring on the season from 4 to 12, while only allowing 5 goals in June.
The Red Stars have also benefited from the return of midfielder Leslie Osborne, who missed four matches after suffering an injury early in the season. While the loss of fellow defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx initially left a hole in the defense, midfielder Julianne Sitch has stepped into that role in the interim and has now solidified a place in the Starting XI for the Red Stars.
The Red Stars are a vastly improved versus the side that slogged through the first two months in the season. Instead of chasing the ball and hoping to keep it out of the net, the Red Stars now look to control matches keep opponents on their heels. This has been the key to their recent success, and they will need to continue this run of form to extend their road winning streak to three. Standing in their way in a new-look Reign side that now includes national team mainstay’s goalkeeper Hope Solo and midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who will pose a challenge, but with the return of goalkeeper Erin McLeod and a newfound attacking prowess, the Red Stars should be able to continue their run.
What does the Reign need to do?
The Reign bring a new look and new-found optimism after two positive road results, a 1-1 draw at Western New York on Sunday and a 2-1 victory, their first of the season, Wednesday at Boston.
Slotting Rapinoe out of her typical midfield role to starting up top has given the Reign a new look on the attack, and while she has yet to score, her presence on the pitch changes how team defend against the Reign, who have nearly doubled their goalscoring total in the last week and snapping a month-long goalless streak.
Playing with a renewed confidence, the Reign are looking to be a much more dangerous team. Adding attacking players in Rapinoe and speedy Trinidad and Tobago international forward Kennya Cordner off their reserve squad, the Reign can now open up the attack and push teams instead of having to absorb and counter, which was a mostly unsuccessful style of play for the Reign.
How the Reign handles the fatigue that comes from playing three matches in a week will be an important factor for success in this match. With key players playing the full 90 minutes plus Rapinoe playing 90 minutes and Solo 45 minutes with the United States Women’s National Team in June 20, head coach Laura Harvey will have important decisions to make Saturday night.
If the Reign can continue their improved play and feed off the energy of the home crowd, the match is there for the taking. If not, and fatigue gets the better of them, don’t expect the Red Stars to let them off easy.
Both squads will likely feature 4-4-2 formations. The Red Stars should be open to selecting nearly any player on their roster to feature, while fatigue will be a major deciding factor for the Reign. If Cordner is available, she could feature for the Reign, but she was pulled 59 minutes into her first match with the team due to injury. Regardless, the lineups could possibly look something like this.
Keys to the Match-
- Take control early
- Spring your attack
- Wear down the opponent
- Find the early goals
- Spread the field
- Keeping the ball out of your defensive third
The Red Stars have shown they can hang with the top teams in the league, while the Reign are still finding themselves. While I have felt that the Reign have been a better team than their record indicates, playing a third match in a week and having to fly across the country doesn’t bode well for them in this match. I see Chicago extending their road winning streak to three with a 2-1 victory.