In front of almost 24,000 people at the Citrus Bowl last week, Tom Sermanni's Orlando Pride registered a historic 3-1 win over Houston Dash, making a bold statement for the title challenge. Now the Pride are approaching another tough task as they will be crossing swords with Chicago Red Stars, at Toyota Park. Just like the Pride, the Red Stars will be looking to take another three points, having recorded their first win last weekend as well.
Here is our scouting report on the Red Stars:
Tactics and Formation
A 3-2 loss on opening day against the Houston Dash was not the ideal result to start this campaign, therefore in the second outing, Red Stars Head Coach Rory Dames opted for a more offensive formation, selecting a 4-1-2-1-2 system, which, throughout the match, constantly transformed itself into a 4-5-1 or 4-1-5, enabling Chicago to dominate the midfield and creating several goal-scoring opportunities.
Their 1-0 win arrived courtesy of a Casey Short goal -- her first-ever goal in NWSL. The Red Stars also managed to obtain their first clean sheet courtesy of a stupendous performance from USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
D Julie Johnston (#8)
Elegant but combative. Still 24 years old but gives the impression of having the experience and savvy of someone at least 30. Johnston has improved a lot in recent years and sometimes she is not even given enough credit for what she puts on the football field, especially with the USWNT. Shifting the attention to domestic football, the Red Stars depend a lot on her. She is important at two aspects of the game: she transmits confidence to the back line and she can also deliver the killer pass from the back, whenever the midfield is struggling to get the ball beyond the opponents' back line. Her improvement could be beneficial for the Red Stars' hopes of challenging for the title. She can also be dangerous in the air on set pieces. The match-up between Johnston and our captain, Alex Morgan, will be one to watch. Both know each other very well, therefore it will be interesting to observe how each will both cope with the other.
F Christen Press (#23)
The soul and the captain of the Red Stars. Press herself is 75% of their attacking force. She has performed at her best recently, making those deep runs which allow the midfielders to run into space, delivering those through balls to the flanks, and also finding the space herself. A goal would have been the icing on the cake for her performance. After having to deal with Carli Lloyd, Press will be another tough player to deal with for the Pride back line, with the probability that this will be more difficult, since Press will be playing in a more advanced role than her USWNT counterpart.
D Casey Short (#6)
Casey Short may not be the most dangerous player for the Red Stars, however, she will bear watching and her story is a remarkable one. We, as soccer fans, would like to see a brave player like her get up and running and excel in this beautiful game. Back in 2013, she was acquired by the Boston Breakers in the NWSL Draft, yet she never made her debut, as a long-term injury had hindered her season before it had even started. The following year, Chicago Red Stars had acquired her and everything seemed written in the stars, as debuting for the Red Stars would have been a dream for Short, since she is from Chicago. However, Lady Luck seemed to have abandoned her once again, as another injury, this time in her knee, left her on the sidelines for the whole season. In 2015, Short traveled about 4,000 miles to chase her dream, as she had signed for a one-year stint with Norwegian side, Avaldsnes IL. Her excellent performances were noted by Dames, who decided to bring her back to her native land, fingers crossed that this season would be her year. She was outstanding in their last fixture against Western New York Flash, where she also netted her first-ever NWSL goal. Her constant runs on the right flank from the back were one of the key factors why the Red Stars were dangerous up front, as they always managed to outnumber the Flash.