It is just about that time again where teams are getting their final touches together ahead of the 2018 season. With only five days left until the opening match, we take a step back and preview how the Chicago Red Stars will play this season. The Red Stars will open their season on Sunday, March 25th at 5:00 pm CT against the Houston Dash.
Last year, the Red Stars finished fourth place in the NWSL. Chicago had a pretty up and down season all together. They had a final record of 11-6-7 (39 points). During the season, the Red Stars showed a lot of talent but it never seemed like they were able to capitalize on the moments they needed. One of these prime examples came against the Seattle Reign when they blew a lead in the final two minutes of the match. Chicago scored a total of 33 goals, which was about the average for the league, but they also had 30 goals go against them. They had times where they would go on unbeaten streaks but then they would also go on straight losing streaks. Chicago was never able to find a solid rhythm.
Failing in the Playoffs, Again
The Red Stars reached the playoffs for the third consecutive year. After struggling to clinch their spot in the playoffs, they finally earned their spot after defeating Houston in Week 23. The Red Stars headed to Cary, North Carolina to take on the NWSL Shield winners, the North Carolina Courage. The Courage immediately came out in both halves and put high pressure on Chicago. Chicago was able to keep them off for most of the match but they broke in the 90th minute. Denise O'Sullivan slipped one past Alyssa Naeher to give the Courage the win and send them to the finals. The Red Stars haven't been able to make it pass the playoffs to finally get their shot in the final in all three years they've made it.
Lots of Changes and Additions
Chicago has had a pretty busy off-season filled with many trades. They were also apart of one of the biggest and most shocking trades of this off-season. The Red Stars took place in a trade that sent Christen Press to Houston and Jen Hoy to Sky Blue FC. In return for these forwards the Red Stars were given Sam Kerr and Nikki Stanton from Sky Blue.
They also selected six players from the 2018 NWSL College Draft. Chicago waited until the end of the second round to select goalkeeper Emily Boyd from University of California, Berkeley. Then three picks later they selected Indigo Gibson from University of California, Berkeley as well. Brianna Visalli was then selected from Pepperdine University immediately after Gibson was selected. Finally, the Red Stars concluded their draft day in the third round when they selected Megan Buckingham from University of North Carolina and Zoey Goralski from UCLA.
After the fold of the Boston Breakers the Red Stars were able to select three more players from the Dispersal Draft. They selected Rosie White, Ashton Miller and Joanna Boyles from Boston. All three of these players are midfielders and will give more attack to the Red Stars so they can fill the goal scoring need they have.
How has Preseason Gone?
After all the trades, the Red Stars took on five preseason games to prepare themselves for the regular season. Overall, they had a pretty decent preseason. Not much about the matches they played against Marquette University and University of Wisconsin was released but the Red Stars took place in the Thorns Spring Invitational again this year. Chicago took place in three 1-0 matches, where they were able to end up on top two out of the three times. Chicago defeated the Portland Thorns and the Houston Dash but then fell to the US Women's National U-23 Team in the final match of the invitational.
Overall, by the looks of how Chicago has been preforming in preseason, they could be in for another shot at the championship this year. What it will all depend on is if they are able to capitalize on key moments and keep their lead when they have it. With the addition of Sam Kerr, nothing is ever out of the question but they have to stay strong through all 90 minutes. Especially with World Cup Qualifying coming up, Chicago risks losing lots of players during this time from national team duties. It is key for Chicago to use the talent they have and make the best of it.
Record Prediction: 12-4-8
Overall Placement Prediction: 3rd