Preview: Sky Blue FC takes on the Chicago Red Stars

Sam Kerr (Photo: Sky Blue FC/Robyn McNeil)

By MC Bousquette
Staff Writer

Sky Blue FC (4-7-5, 17 points) have their work cut out for them as they take on the Chicago Red Stars (7-2-6, 27 points), who presently occupy second place in the NWSL table.

The Competition:

The Red Stars will be out to regain their stride- they fell to Portland Thorns FC on Sunday night, marking only their second loss of the entire season. Chicago has been an incredibly solid side, and does not lack for firepower; Christen Press is a powerful striker with eight goals in seven games for the Red Stars. Lori Chalupny scored her first match back from the World Cup, while Sofia Huerta, Daniella Colaprico, and Alyssa Mautz are proven playmakers and goal scorers for Chicago. The Red Stars’ high-speed offense is sure to put Sky Blue’s back line on trial tomorrow night.

Breaking down Chicago’s back line is no easy feat- a rare, but grave error on a tangle between goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc and defender Abby Erceg permitted the Thorns’ Allie Long her first goal on Sunday night, but was by no means a reflection of the defense’s usual play. In addition to LeBlanc and Erceg’s experienced defending, Julie Johnston appears even more dynamic at center back after her World Cup experience. Expect to see a shored-up back line out for a clean sheet against Sky Blue.

Sky Blue:

Sky Blue shocked by defeating the Houston Dash 2-0 last week with a cohesive performance at BBVA Compass Stadium. They’ll need more of that whole-team effort to break down the Chicago Red Stars. Sky Blue must continue converting their many solid chances- last match saw numerous well-created opportunities, with successful finishes from Sam Kerr and Nadia Nadim. The high-intensity attacking pace must be a factor from the get-go, and Sky Blue will depend on its deep strength at midfield and up top, including Kelley O’Hara, Sara Killion, Katy Freels, and Taylor Lytle to maintain the level of play that shook the Dash.

The back line’s solidity is another key, as continued importance is placed on Brittany Cameron’s often game-saving performances- she defended successfully a one on one against Houston’s Carli Lloyd last week. The experienced defenders in front of Cameron are just as important- their cohesion is essential to holding off the Stars’ lightning attack.

“Chicago is a tough place to play, so we know that we will need a very good performance to come away with three points,” said Jim Gabarra, Sky Blue FC Technical Director & Head Coach. “The Red Stars have a really athletic team that was at the top of the table for most of the season. Now it is up to us to go in there and find a way to get the result.”

The Bottom Line:

Victory for Sky Blue will be a difficult result to obtain, but this side has proven they have the will to win. The obvious game-changer in taking down the Dash was a truly cohesive, fast-paced effort from both the defense and the offense, and it will take a similar performance to defeat the Red Stars.

Sky Blue FC take on the Chicago Red Stars tomorrow at 2:00pm EST at the Benedictine University Sports Complex Stadium in Lisle, Illinois (streamed live on Youtube here)


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