The Chicago Red Stars will host the Orlando Pride in the LifeTime Game of the Week in an extremely important match for both teams. The Red Stars and Pride are tied in the standings with 12 points each, but the Pride have a game in hand. Orlando lost a close match at home against the North Carolina Courage on Wednesday night, and they will need to stay focused and conserve energy if they want to earn points on the road against Chicago. The Red Stars, on the other hand, are on a six-game winless streak and have fallen from second place to fifth in that time. They are in danger of falling out of the playoff picture without a win at home. Orlando won the first meeting of 2018 in Chicago 2-0 behind goals from Chioma Ubogagu and Rachel Hill.
Chicago hopes to turn their season around
After starting the season with unexpected success, the Chicago Red Stars have been held without a win since April 18th. Ever since forward Sam Kerr and midfielder Julie Ertz returned to the Chicago lineup the Red Stars are winless, and the team is determined to improve after making the playoffs the last three seasons.
The Red Stars have drawn in five of their last six matches, and this league is too competitive for a team to drop points consistently. While goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher has been phenomenal during the last few matches, the offensive side of the ball has been unable to uphold their end of the task. After starting the season with some of the best offensive performances in the league, the Red Stars have been unable to successfully incorporate the attacking presence of Kerr and Ertz into their gameplan. Kerr is the reigning NWSL MVP after scoring 17 goals for Sky Blue FC in 2017, but she doesn't seem to fit into the Chicago game plan at this point in the season. Right now it feels like the Red Stars haven't hit their stride, but time is running out. After the game on Saturday, the team will be almost half done with their season, and there is strong opposition bearing down on the Red Stars from the rest of the league.
Tomorrow afternoon the Red Stars will face off against one of the best offenses in the league, so their defense will need to play better than they have over the last few weeks. The Orlando defense is hardly stifling, so as long as they can find a way to get Kerr involved in the offense there should be goals to be had.
Orlando looks to bounce back
The Pride have been on a roll since getting their international players back after the first month of the season, but the defense struggled on Wednesday against the Courage as they fell 4-3 at home.
The Orlando offense has been extremely strong of late, with Alex Morgan, Marta, Chioma Ubogagu and Rachel Hill each generating significant offense. On the other half of the field, the defense had been looking good over the first eight matches, but they allowed four goals four days ago when they hosted the Courage. The last time these two teams met the Pride dominated Chicago and easily won the game 2-0, so they will definitely have confidence on their side.
Orlando will need to conserve their energy in the first half and hope to level the playing field in the second half after running short on rest. Orlando has the depth necessary to work on a short week, and I think they will be confident after scoring three goals against the Courage and beating the Red Stars in Chicago just a month ago.
The Chicago Red Stars host the Orlando Pride on Saturday, May 26 at Toyota Park. The game preview is scheduled to start at 3:30 PM Eastern Time, and kickoff is scheduled for 3:50 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on LifeTime.