Preview: Chicago Red Stars (h).
Updated: May 22, 2022
When? Sunday May 22, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight BST.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on Paramount+ for residents of the United States and Twitch for international supporters.
The Pride head into this game in great shape, having picked up 7 points from the last 9 available as they face a Chicago side that have yet to find any consistency in 2022. After 2 away wins, the Pride will be looking to claim their first win at home, a win that could see them end the weekend at the NWSL summit.
The Red Stars, however, like my pervasion for unnecessary Star Wars references, should not be underestimated. This is a team that has a lot of quality in its ranks, particularly with the likes of Rachel Hill and Mallory Pugh. They've never really replaced Sam Kerr's goals, but they're more than capable of getting goals across the pitch.
The Red Stars are slowly beginning to establish their own style under Chris Petrucelli. During the NWSL Challenge Cup, they sought to try and dominate possession, averaging 54% of the overall play, and a 78.4% pass completion rate (figure 1). They have a number of ball playing midfielders such as Vanessa DiBernardo and Zoe Morse. They then like to use the movement of Rachel Hill and Yuki Nagasato to pull defenders apart, thus creating spaces for their midfielders to exploit.
They're a team that likes to get the ball forward; 38.8% of their passes during the Challenge Cup went forward (figure 2). During their recent defeat to the San Diego Wave 62 of their 241 passes were long balls, with 37% hitting their intended targets. They're not a long ball team by any stretch, but they have the ability to bypass a high press and to switch the play with their repertoire of players comfortable playing long passes.
Figure 1 shows Chicago's passing statistics in the Challenge Cup.
Figure 2 shows Chicago's passing direction averages during the Challenge Cup.
For the Red Stars, Mallory Pugh was expected to take place in full training on Friday and could be available for 'some minutes' on Sunday. Morgan Gautrat is expected to be out for up to 6 weeks. Ella Stevens is touch and go, as is Jill Aguilera. Chelsie Dawber is expected to be available, however Sarah Luebbert is ineligible until June 1st.
The Pride, however, remain without Caitlin Cosme and Marta. Amy Turner, Angharad James, Meggie Dougherty-Howard and Parker Roberts are questionable.
EDIT 5/22 Kerry Abello is on Covid protocols so is out, whilst Kylie Strom is a doubt with illness.
Possible starting XI
I think, given their injury concerns, the Red Stars will remain unchanged in their usual 3-4-3 formation:
Hill has found a home in Chicago, where she has established herself as a vitally important part of the squad. In 2021 she scored 3 goals in 15 games, whilst creating 19 chances for her teammates and completing 41% of her dribbles. She's never been prolific, indeed her best goalscoring return was 5 goals in the 2018-19 season in the Australian A League. As a central striker, her strengths lie in her ability to stretch defences and draw people out of position.
Chicago have been in patchy form so far in 2022; they won only 2 of 6 in the Challenge Cup and are 1-1-0 so far on the regular season.
Orlando Pride, however, have taken 7 points from the last 9 available and are 2nd in the standings with a 2-1-1 record.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com and nwslsoccer.com.
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
B-roll and media availability footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Top player image courtesy of Chicago Red Stars.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com.