What You’ll Watch
After earning points on the road last weekend, Seattle Reign FC returns to Memorial Stadium to face off against the Chicago Red Stars. This will be the final of three meetings this season between the two clubs. Seattle will once again be without a number of key starters due to injury and personal absences.
Chicago currently sits in fifth place with 29 points (7-4-8 in 19 games played; 1.5 ppg), while Reign FC is in second place with 36 points (10-4-6 in 20 games played; 1.8 ppg). The last time out, Chicago played to a 1-1 draw with top-ranked North Carolina — putting in a strong second-half performance. Prior to that game, the Red Stars had gone 27 days without a match. Seattle, meanwhile, is coming off two matches in the last week, including a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Utah Royals.
This will be the 17th all-time meeting between Seattle and Chicago. Seattle is 5-6-5 against Chicago. Reign FC have scored 22 goals and have conceded 18 over those previous 16 meetings. Their match in May, hosted at Memorial Stadium, was a scoreless draw, while Sam Kerr scored in the waning minutes in July to earn Chicago a 1-0 win.
A Look at the Enemy
Last Five: T-W-W-L-W with eight goals scored and six conceded
Leading Goal Scorer: Samantha Kerr, 10
Assist Leader: Yuki Nagasato, five
OUT: Stephanie McCaffrey (illness)
OUT: Elizabeth Addo (right knee strain), Yael Averbuch (illness – SEI), Stephanie Catley (excused absence), Kiersten Dallstream (right knee sprain – SEI), Rumi Utsugi (left calf strain), Beverly Yanez (right foot fracture); Megan Rapinoe (left hip soreness)
REFEREE: Lukasz Szpala
AR1: Chris Elliott
AR2: John Krill
4TH: Jeff Arthurholtz
What to Watch
Chicago has primarily lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Kerr at the top and Yuki Nagasato playing right behind her. However, in their last match against North Carolina, Chicago played in more of a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Kerr and Nagasato next to each other. Those two have been a hard-to-stop duo in recent months, with Nagasato’s creative and technical passing finding Kerr at the right time and with the right weight on the ball. In Chicago’s last five games, Kerr has five goals and three of those were assisted by Nagasato.
Last week, the midfield included Morgan Brian, Dani Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, and Alyssa Mautz — with the latter two playing the wide roles in the 4-4-2, although pulling more centrally to allow Chicago’s outside backs to make attacking runs up the flanks. Right back Arin Gilliland, in particular, pushed up early and often. Unfortunately for Chicago, while her runs were great, her passing in those key moments was off all night.
Still, the pace of both Gilliland and Casey Short poses a problem for opponents, as both look to push the attack up the flank and find Kerr or Nagasato with crosses or through balls. Unlike Seattle, who plays out of the back to build possession, Chicago gets the ball forward as quickly as possible; more of their passes come in the opposition’s half.
While Chicago started the season looking to play more possession-style soccer, they have played more direct to get the most out of Kerr, who is always looking to sneak in behind defenses. As a result, their passing accuracy is among the lowest in the league (70.6% compared to Seattle’s 72.3%). For those balls that do get into Kerr, however, it’s all about putting bodies in front of the ball as fast as possible. If Kerr isn’t getting many shots off, the whole team is struggling in front of goal. Chicago has attempted 195 shots this season, while Seattle has gotten 227 shots off, and about 40 percent of Chicago’s shot attempts come from Kerr.
On the other side, Seattle has had a difficult time breaking down Chicago this season. Their defense is organized and they have speed along the flanks to recover quickly. The team has given up the third fewest shots in the league, behind North Carolina and Utah. However, it’s all about taking advantage of those few opportunities they give you, just as it was for Reign FC last weekend against the Royals. It was a similar far-post run and cross that got the Courage their only goal against the Red Stars last weekend.
Both teams are fighting hard to slide into one of the three remaining playoff spots, with Chicago having a bit more on the line this week. Because of that, this should be a physical, exciting battle.
- Put bodies into the box — Chicago is tough defensively, but the more Seattle gets numbers into the box to pounce on rebounds or crosses, the more chances they have to score.
- Don’t let Sam Kerr get the ball — And the second she does win a pass or challenge, get bodies around her quickly.
- Protect the box — Sam Kerr can also score goals with her head. Seattle has been strong defensively when defending balls into the box. Keep that stout defense going.
- Break up play in the midfield — Colaprico and Brian are both creative players and strong passers. They shouldn’t be allowed too much time and space.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Wednesday, August 15, 7:30 PM PT
Location: UW Medicine Pitch, Memorial Stadium | Seattle, WA
Streaming: NWSLsoccer.com, NWSL app (iOS/Android)