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Reign Report: Dancing with the (Red) Stars

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Seattle heads on the road to take on the Chicago Red Stars.

Seattle Reign vs. Chicago Red Stars: Photos Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

What You’ll Watch

After a three-game homestand, Seattle Reign FC heads on the road for a weekend match against the Chicago Red Stars. This will be the second of three meetings this season between the two clubs. Reign FC are riding a three-game winning streak, including a victory over rival Portland Thorns FC, while Chicago has gone 2-1-0 during that same timeframe.

Chicago currently sits in fourth place with 25 points (6-4-7 in 17 games played; 1.5 ppg), while Reign FC is in second place with 29 points (8-3-5 in 16 games played; 1.8 ppg). The last time out, Chicago dismantled Sky Blue FC and Sam Kerr walked away with a hattrick. Seattle, meanwhile, is coming off a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Utah Royals.

This will be the 16th all-time meeting between Seattle and Chicago. The teams are a perfect 5-5-5 against each other. Reign FC have scored 22 goals and have conceded 17 over those previous 15 meetings. Their match in May, hosted at Memorial Stadium, was a scoreless draw.

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: W-L-W-W-T with nine goals scored and six conceded

Leading Goal Scorer: Samantha Kerr, eight

Assist Leader: Yuki Nagasato, four

Injury Report

Chicago

OUT: Stephanie McCaffrey (illness)

Seattle

OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness), Kiersten Dallstream (left quad strain)

QUESTIONABLE: Elizabeth Addo (left knee sprain), Rumi Utsugi (left calf strain)

Match Officials

REFEREE: Natalie Simon
AR1: Maggie Short
AR2: Kaili Terry
4TH: Rebecca Pagan

What to Watch

Chicago has taken awhile to settle into the season and find not only its ideal starting lineup, but formation and style of play. With a number of players absent early on due to international duty or injury, coach Rory Dames had no choice but to rotate players. Now, unfortunately for opponents, Chicago is at full health and is starting to figure out how to take advantage of picking up 2017 MVP Sam Kerr as their striker. After last weekend’s hattrick, Kerr now sits at the top of the Golden Boot race — despite missing April due to Australia’s World Cup qualifiers.

Chicago, most recently, has lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Kerr at the top and Yuki Nagasato playing right behind her. Those two have formed a lethal partnership, with Nagasato’s creative and technical passing finding Kerr at the right time and with the right weight on the ball. While Chicago started the season looking to play more possession-style soccer, they have been a bit more direct lately to get the most out of Kerr, who is always looking to sneak in behind defenses. The only real way to stop her is to not let her have too much time on the ball — or to not let her have the ball at all. Seattle did well to contain Kerr earlier in May, but they were also not facing a full-strength Red Stars squad.

After giving up only one goal in the month of June, Chicago has let in quite a few more in recent weeks. To be fair, they did get the North Carolina treatment, where they actually played well but still fell 4-1 to the dominant Courage. But this also coincides with Chicago’s three-way trade with Houston and Utah, which sent Sofia Huerta and right back Taylor Comeau to Houston and centerback Samantha Johnson to Utah. As a result, Chicago is still trying to determine its ideal backline and midfield as they make a push for the playoffs.

With Johnson’s departure, Julie Ertz has been pulled back as a centerback after spending the last season and a half as a holding midfielder. She helped the U.S. win the World Cup in that position, so Chicago doesn’t lose much in the swap. Chicago also now has a midfield that includes Morgan Brian, Dani Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, and Nikki Stanton, who has been an underrated contributor in that holding midfield position. This is a technical midfield who is strong in possession, but they also can be beat with pace and movement.

Seattle has had a difficult time breaking down Chicago on the road. Their field is really wide, and the weather is always unpredictable. But the Reign are really beginning to find some rhythm — and if they can dominate through the midfield and disrupt Chicago’s attack, Seattle has a fighting chance against a Red Stars team fighting for a playoff spot.

Quick Keys

  • Spring the attack — Fast restarts after winning the ball will be critical for Seattle. If the Reign can pressure and win the ball higher up the field, these restarts could result in some quality chances.
  • Block the passing lanes — Don’t give Kerr the opportunity to work her magic. Cut off through balls with smart positioning. That also means limiting balls to Yuki Nagasato, who has formed a dangerous partnership with Kerr in the last month.
  • Use the width — Chicago’s outside backs have been solid this year, but the backline struggles when they get stretched too wide. This is a game where Seattle’s outside backs could be crucial in overloading one side of the field.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Saturday, July 14 @ 5:00 PM PT

Location: Toyota Park | Bridgeview, Illinois

Streaming: go90 (U.S.) | NWSLsoccer.com, NWSL app (international)