Preview: Chicago Red Stars (a).
Updated: Aug 6, 2021
When? Sunday August 8, 3 p.m. PT, 6 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. BST.
Where? Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on Paramount+ for residents of the United States and on Twitch for international viewers (twitch.tv and via the Twitch app).
Game 2 in the Becky Burleigh era sees the Orlando Pride head to Toyota Park for an intriguing game against the resurgent Red Stars. Rory Dame's team have won 4 out of their last 5 games, a run which has elevated them to 3rd place in the NWSL standings. The Pride haven't had things easy of late, but now is the time to 'be a goldfish' as Ted Lasso might say. They need to cast all thoughts of Marc Skinner, and recent results aside.
The Pride played well in their recent draw in North Carolina. They were more than a match for their hosts, and they have shown they can get results this season. Particularly in tough arenas. A win in this game could see the Pride leap up the table, depending on results elsewhere of course. I'm hesitant to categorically say this is a 'must win game', but it has that sort of feel. A win would certainly help, under any circumstances.
So, without further ado let's get into reviewing what promises to be an interesting encounter.
This game promises to be a bruising encounter. We're talking about two teams here that are well versed in, shall we say, mixing it up. Hitting the grind. Chicago are not a team that are easily dominated physically; they have won a whopping 659 of their 1,271 (51.8%) duels so far this season, and 156 of their 273 tackles (57.1%, all figure 1). In a league which is renowned for it's athleticism and physicality these numbers stand up well. Very well, in fact, only one team has won more duels than the Red Stars this season. Who is that team, I hear you ask? The Orlando Pride. Ding, ding, ding... And in the purple corner we have...
In all seriousness, to reduce this side (as well as the Pride), to merely being a physical side, the Burnley of the NWSL, if you will, would be doing them a disservice. They've had the 3rd most amount of shots and shots on goal, in the entire league (figure 2). They also have a very respectable XG rating of 1.32, having scored 13.6% of their attempts on goal; that's 15 goals in total. It's true that they like to get the ball forward quickly, 364.8 passes per game, of which 44.9% go forward. But they are far from a 'kick and rush' team. They have plenty of pace and power in the forward areas, particularly with the likes of Mallory Pugh and ex-Pride forward Rachel Hill. This is a dangerous team, one that is blessed with both physical prowess and finesse. Orlando are going to have to be at their best in order to get anything out of this one.
Figure 1 shows Chicago's dueling and tackling percentages on the season so far.
Figure 2 shows where Chicago ranks in terms of the NWSL's most prolific shooters.
Figure 3 shows Chicago's passing statistics on the season so far.
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The Red Stars have a number of absentee and injury concerns heading into this game. Vanessa DiBernardo and Makenzy Doniak will both sit this game out, due to injury. Alyssa Naeher is away on international duty, and has reportedly picked up an injury in Tokyo. Julie Ertz, Casey Krueger and Tierna Davidson are also away. Even with the USWNT's untimely exit, they will not be back in time.
Neither will any of Orlando's contingent. All (aside from Erin McLeod) have seen their teams eliminated, but their return schedule is still unclear. Ali Riley visited Sweden after the games*, and the US will compete in the bronze medal game on Thursday (5th). As for Marta her availability is uncertain at this point, but I'd be surprised to see her involved.
*EDIT: Ali Riley trained this week and is available.
Possible starting XI
I think a change of personnel is possible for this game. Whilst Rachel Hill has performed admirably in a centre forward position, her pace and willingness to run could cause issues for the Pride down the flank. Likewise, with Katie Johnson playing through the middle. This will then give Mallory Pugh a chance to roam across the front line. It's not an oft used line-up, but I have a hunch they will set up with something similar at least:
Pugh was perhaps unfortunate not to make the trip to Tokyo this summer. She's been in good form, and surely has to be considered part of the USWNT's future? Right? She's featured in 12 games for the Red Stars this season, starting 11 of them. Pugh has played a total of 994 minutes so far. She's totalled 3 goals so far, and boasts an impressive conversion rate of 17.6% from 17 total efforts. She's a key piece of Chicago's creative force with 25 key passes on the season. That's an average of 2.08 key passes per game. She also has 2 assists on the season, and 5 successful crosses. She's a dangerous player, and one that Orlando will have to get to grips with if they want to emerge victorious.
As previously mentioned, there has been something of a resurgence taking place in Chicago lately. Their 3-1 win over the Spirit was their 4th in 5 games. The 3rd placed side will fancy their chances in this game. They have recovered from a less than stellar start to the season to move to a 6-2-5 record for the season.
The Pride have had a rather tumultuous time of it lately. The sudden departure of Marc Skinner came after a run of 5 winless games. An encouraging draw against the Courage marked Becky Burleigh's start. Luckily the Pride had a strong start, so boast a respectable 4-5-4 record. They're still within touching distance of the teams at the top too.
N.B. this article has a different look to the usual format. This is due to on-going technical issues with wix.com
I'm hoping this will be fixed soon.
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