The Red Stars play all three of the other teams to make the playoffs last season, in their opening three games. They came away with a very well-earned draw last weekend at the North Carolina Courage, and will play Reign FC next weekend after they play Portland on Saturday. While the outcome of these three matches won't determine how successful Chicago will be this season, it's a good barometer to see just where exactly in the pecking order they fall.
Any success that Chicago has will be heavily determined by the ever potent partnership of Yuki Nagasato and Sam Kerr. Nagasato assisted on Kerr's goal last week against North Carolina and Chicago will need Kerr to continue the goal-scoring form we all know she is capable of in these early season matches before she joins up with Australia for the World Cup.
The Portland Thorns will play in their second of a six game road trip to start the season as renovations to Providence Park prevent them as well as the Timbers of MLS to play there until June. This match against Chicago is without a doubt their toughest of the road trip (they play the Orlando Pride twice, the first time being on the opening week, Sky Blue FC twice, as well as the Washington Spirit). A loss to Chicago is not the end of the world given the other three teams they play on this road trip are slated for finishing positions in the bottom third.
Just as with Chicago, Portland will be looking at a pair of potent offensive weapons to help with an early season surge before leaving for the World Cup. Caitlin Foord and Tobin Heath both scored and assisted on each other's goals in Portland's 2-0 at Orlando last week. Foord was coming off of a pretty serious foot injury last season that cost her two-thirds of the season and also resulted in her not recording a goal or assist last season, and not being able to impact the game like the Thorns had hoped. Now that she's got her first goal in a Portland shirt, hopefully this results in her reaching the heights that we've seen her reach both with Australia, and with her stint at Sky Blue earlier in her career.
Chicago Red Stars:
QUESTIONABLE: Morgan Brian (Left Thigh), Danielle Colaprico (Left Hip), Vanessa DiBernardo (Left Hip), Casey Short (Left Thigh), Alyssa Mautz (Illness), Nikki Stanton (Left thigh)
OUT: Emily Menges (Right Foot), Bella Bixby (Right Hand)
The Chicago Red Stars host the Portland Thorns Saturday, April 20 at 3:30 PM EST. For American viewers, the match can be streamed at this link, or on the Yahoo Sports app. For international viewers, the match will be streamed at nwslsoccer.com, and on the NWSL app.