Five weeks ago, Sky Blue FC earned it's first win of the season, and their first in the post-Denise Reddy era. The team they beat that day is their upcoming opponents, the Chicago Red Stars, who since said loss, have gone on to win five straight games.
Hitting their stride
Ever since the get-go, Chicago has struggled for consistency this season. They'd win two in a row, and then follow that up with a string of defeats or vice-versa. This was surprising coming from a club with a lot of talent from top to bottom and one that many people pegged as a potential championship favorite prior to the season. Following their loss to Sky Blue on July 6, it seemed like things had hit rock-bottom. Losing four of their last five matches, being outscored 10-4 in that stretch, and culminating in a loss at home to a team who had only won once previously in the prior season and half, and also were playing their first game after firing their head coach. This was problematic for them not only because it meant that this season may be lost, but there's a decent chance that this season is the best shot they'll have at winning a championship. Since then, they have won five straight, outscoring their opponents 10-1, which includes a 2-1 win against the North Carolina Courage, and a 4-0 drubbing against Reign FC on the road.
While this season for them may still bear some fruit, this team's window to win is still close to shutting. This Chicago team in the near future may fall victim to something that is so rarely talked about in NWSL, the salary cap crunch. Key players such as Katie Naughton, Vanessa DiBernardo, Savannah McCaskill, Nikki Stanton, and Sarah Gorden are all out of contract after this season and this is going to cause problems for Chicago in being able to keep a competitive group of players together for a few more years. Couple that with North Carolina having more of their key players signed for next year, the Portland Thorns remaining the premier club in NWSL, expansion in 2020 looking more likely, and European interest in Sam Kerr being as high as it has ever been, and Chicago faces some interesting decisions after this season.
It's All A Bonus at This Point
Sky Blue have won two games so far this season, twice as many as last. There is progress being shown not only on the field, but off of it as well. This is mainly thanks to former Chicago Red Stars and current interim GM Alyse Lahue. Ever since being appointed to the role just prior to the season, she has gone above and beyond for this team. Everything from buying beer for the fans when the beer garden at Yurcak Field was shut down temporarily, all the way to getting their next home game against Reign FC on August 18 (which will be nationally televised on ESPNEWS) moved to Red Bull Arena due to an increased demand on tickets thanks to incredible post-World Cup marketing which she has helped lead the charge on. So this matchup against Chicago will obviously be one the players will be looking to win, I'm sure everyone in the organization has one eye on Sunday's game as well.
Sky Blue FC host the Chicago Red Stars this Wednesday, August 14, at 7:00 PM EST. The match will be streamed on Yahoo Sports at this link in the United States, and international viewers can watch it on nwslsoccer.com.