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Match Preview: Seattle Reign vs. Chicago Red Stars

The Reign kick off a three-game road trip against Chicago.

Last Updated
6 min read
© Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Reign begin a three-match road trip on Saturday, March 23, when they head to Bridgeview to face the Chicago Red Stars. The game kicks off at SeatGeek Stadium at 1 p.m. PT and will stream on NWSL+.

Bridgeview has historically been a tough place for the Reign to play, partly because of the area's more extreme weather. Saturday should be no exception. The Reign woke up to snow on the ground Friday morning and are expecting temperatures in the mid-30s at kickoff. It should be a chilly match.

Both teams had plenty of roster turnover in the offseason. Both teams also brought in some quality talent and will be hungry to show the rest of the league that they can compete in 2024. In addition to adding several new players, Chicago is under new ownership and new front office staff.

The club also welcomed new head coach Lorne Donaldson. A former youth coach with Real Colorado, Donaldson developed several talented players – including Mallory Swanson and Sophia Smith – and helped the Jamaica women's national team advance to the knockout round of the 2023 Women's World Cup. This year could mark a real turning point for the Red Stars in several ways.

The Chicago Red Stars’ New Beginning
The Red Stars are looking to turn the page on their past and start a new chapter in their story.

Recent Results

Seattle Reign is coming off a 1-0 home win against the Spirit, while the Red Stars earned a 2-0 road win at Utah – in part thanks to Alyssa Naeher's heroic goalkeeping.

Head to Head

The Reign are 11-10-8 all-time against the Red Stars. That includes a 3-8-2 road record against Chicago. SeatGeek has been a tough place for points, but the Reign closed out the 2023 regular season with a 3-0 road win against the Red Stars.

Quick Stats

  • In the 2023 regular season, Chicago (7-12-3) scored 28 goals and conceded 50. The Red Stars finished the season in 12th place.
  • The Reign (9-8-5) scored 29 and conceded 24 in league play – finishing in 4th and advancing to the NWSL Final.
  • Jess Fishlock has scored seven goals against the Red Stars, tied for the most in the series. Fishlock has scored in her last three appearances against Chicago, finding the net five times.

What to Watch

Another 4-4-2

The Red Stars also used a 4-4-2 formation in their season opener. For the first 20 minutes or so, Mallory Swanson – back from injury and looking strong – was on the left wing. Ally Schlegel and Nádia Gomes started up top. After those opening minutes, Gomes moved to the left, and Swanson came up top with Schlegel.

Red Stars formations, courtesy of Wyscout

The team also defended in a 4-4-2, putting a lot of numbers behind the ball as both wide midfielders dropped back. While they might defend deep, the Red Stars have plenty of young, athletic players in their lineup. That means they have the talent and speed to be really dangerous in transition. More on that below!

The Red Stars backline was surprisingly organized, considering three of the four players are new to the Chicago roster this year. Natalia Kuikka, a right back formerly with Portland, signed with Chicago via free agency and featured at centerback in the season opener. She played next to Sam Staab, a longtime Washington Spirit veteran who came to the Red Stars in a trade. German defender Maximiliane Rall joined the team this year from Bayern Munich, while left back Taylor Malham played just 216 regular-season minutes for Chicago last year.

Tough to break down

Under Donaldson, this Chicago side looks like a team that is very comfortable ceding possession and defending. Last weekend against the Utah Royals, they attempted and completed the fewest passes in the league (and had a league-low 62.3% pass completion rate). This is similar to how Jamaica played in the World Cup under Donaldson when they gave up just one goal in the entire tournament.

"They're quite happy to defend because they feel that they can get you in transitional moments. I think they did a good job of that against Utah. Utah had a ton of the ball. They're quite patient in that as well, which I think is a really good trait," head coach Laura Harvey said ahead of the match.

Expect Chicago to give the Reign centerbacks a lot of time and freedom on the ball while cutting off options further up the field. Their forwards will work together to prevent passes into the Reign's holding midfielder, and their wide midfielders will close down quickly when the ball goes outside.

The Reign will need to be patient in possession and look for some quick combinations and ball switches to catch the organized Red Stars defense out of position. As Utah showed at times, Chicago can leave space between the lines in the middle of the field, as their two central midfielders are asked to do a lot of tracking and can get pulled out of position.

Dangerous in transition

When you have a player like Swanson on your roster, you're always going to be dangerous in transition. Swanson seems to get faster with the ball at her feet. She can carry the ball up the field from a deep position and create a shot for herself or a teammate.

Unlike the Washington Spirit, who rarely tried to counter against the Reign, Chicago will likely test the Reign in transition throughout the match. Because they allow opponents a lot of time on the ball, these opportunities might feel like they come out of nowhere. The Reign backline is going to have to be very organized.

"Chicago is obviously known for always being hardworking and clearly with who they have on the front line, very transitional as well," defender Sofia Huerta said. "Traveling here is always difficult. Playing at SeatGeek is difficult, so it's a hard game to come on the road and get three points from."

Swanson's set-piece delivery and Staab's long balls and long throw-ins, which led to a goal last weekend, will also require the Reign to be alert. Harvey's least favorite thing in the world is giving up a shot off a throw-in.

"Sam Staab is obviously a new addition to Chicago. She poses a threat in many areas in the field, especially with her long throw," Huerta said unprompted.

Injury / Availability Report

Seattle Reign

OUT: Alana Cook (knee), Veronica Latsko (leg), Sam Meza (illness)

Chicago Red Stars

OUT: Sami Feller (SEI – hip), Penelope Hocking (concussion)

How to Watch

Seattle Reign kicks off against the Chicago Red Stars at 1 p.m. PT on Saturday, March 23. The match will stream on NWSL+ for U.S. and international viewers.

NWSL+ is available on all iOS/Android devices, web browsers, and streaming devices by Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku. Fans may have to search National Women's Soccer League or NWSL to find the NWSL+ app.