At 4:00 pm EST this Saturday, the Chicago Red Stars will play their home opener against Midwest rivals FC Kansas City. The sides fared very differently on opening weekend; the Red Stars suffered a shock 2-0 defeat to the Houston Dash, while KC put out an impressive performance at home to the Boston Breakers, coming out 2-0 winners.
Uncertain start for Chicago
After being dubbed as one of the top contenders for the Championship this year, it was a big surprise for the Red Stars to lose on opening weekend. It certainly wasn’t the start Rory Dames’ side were looking for, but they are more than capable of bouncing back - as they showed last year, when they also took a loss in Houston in the opener, but then went on an eight-game unbeaten streak.
Chicago’s star striker, Christen Press, failed to register a shot on target in the Houston match, as she looked a little rusty in her touch, and not confident enough with taking shots early. The Red Stars need her to be on form if they are going to break down KC’s experienced defense, which boasts USWNT co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn.
Press wasn’t the only player struggling, however, so it will be interesting to see if Dames does alter his starting 11. Sofia Huerta was an interesting omission from the lineup, although she did make a substitute appearance later in the match. Her energy is perhaps something that is needed to help the Red Stars get off the mark this season.
Kansas City back to their best
After failing to make the playoffs for the first time in their history last season, FC Kansas City looks like they’re back to their best in 2017. They put in a dominant performance over the Breakers in their home opener last weekend.
KC’s two goals came from two popular players who had returned from pregnancy, in Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez. These two and their connection with fellow forward Shea Groom caused trouble to the Breakers defense all game. Although Rodriguez was unfortunately ruled out of the rest of the season with an ACL tear, the combination of Leroux and Groom is still more than enough to score plenty of goals this season.
Kansas City certainly has a strong offense, but they aren’t - especially in the back. Sauerbrunn, right-back Brittany Taylor, and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart are all entering their fifth year in the NWSL, and Yael Averbuch her fourth. Along with Christina Gibbons, the fifth-overall pick in this year’s draft, they have a very strong and experienced looking back-five. They will have a tough task in stopping Press and co., but as the Dash showed last week it can be done, and KC certainly have the players to do it.
Prediction: Chicago Red Stars 0, FC Kansas City 1