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Reign Report: Silencing the Windy City

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Important game plan: Don’t let Sam Kerr get the ball.

Photo by MikeRussellFoto

What You’ll Watch

For the first time this season, Seattle Reign FC will host back-to-back home games. This time around, they will host the Chicago Red Stars. This will be the first of three meetings this season between the two clubs. Reign FC are riding a three-game winning streak and will look to remain unbeaten at home (2-0-0). The Red Stars are looking for their first win in over a month.

Chicago is currently sitting in fourth place with 11 points (2-2-5 in nine games played; 1.2 ppg) while Reign FC sit in second place with 13 points (4-1-1 in six games played; 2.17 ppg). The last time out, Chicago earned one point in their 2-2 draw against the Houston Dash while Seattle defeated Sky Blue FC 4-1.

This will be the 15th all-time meeting between Seattle and Chicago. Seattle is 4-1-2 at home against the Red Stars. Reign FC have scored 22 goals and have conceded 17 over those previous 14 meetings. Last season, Seattle went 2-1-0, scoring four goals and conceding three.

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: T-T-L-T-T with five goals scored and seven conceded

Leading Scorer: Alyssa Mautz and Sofia Huerta, three goals

Assist Leader: Danielle Colaprico and Huerta, two assists

Injury Report

Chicago

OUT: Vanessa DiBernardo (pelvic stress fracture – D45), Stephanie McCaffrey (illness), Casey Short (right ankle sprain – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Seattle

OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness), Jaycie Johnson (right knee sprain – D45)

QUESTIONABLE: Megan Oyster (left knee sprain)

Match Officials

Referee: Katja Koroleva
AR1: Chris Elliott
AR2: Joshua Haimes
4TH: Sya Magee

What to Watch

Chicago’s System

After starting off the season slow, the Chicago Red Stars are beginning to find their form. They haven’t won a lot of matches lately, but they’ve also been without a number of their most dangerous players due to injury and international duty. Julie Ertz is now healthy and Sam Kerr joined the team after representing Australia in World Cup qualifiers.

The integration of these two players could be dangerous for Seattle, who now has to face off against a team with a ton of pace in the attack. The speed of Arin Gilliland, who moved from outside back to a more attacking role this year, along with Kerr and Sofia Huerta, is going to be a challenge for the Reign FC defense.

Chicago traditionally lines up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, and more recently switched to a 4-2-3-1 — using Kerr as the lone forward. In their last match, however, they opted for more of a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Regardless of exactly how they line up, there are a few certainties when it comes to the Red Stars: Kerr will be looking to break lines all match, and it will be critically important for Seattle to prevent balls in to her. That’s really one of the only ways you can stop Sam Kerr. Huerta and Gilliland will roam in the attack, with Huerta often pulling inside near the top of the box to be available for shots and Gilliland streaking everywhere along the wings.

Ertz is likely going to move higher up the pitch to break up Seattle’s ability to play out of the back and use her physicality to get involved in the attack. It is dangerous when teams let Ertz dictate the game. Allie Long and Rumi Utsugi are going to have to be flawless on defense this game.

Chicago is a really good team, but they have weaknesses. They can get caught high on defense and are vulnerable to through balls that split their centerbacks, Katie Naughton and Samantha Johnson. Case in point: this Rachel Daly goal last weekend.

They can also be broken down with smart passing and ball movement — areas where Seattle excels. Moving the ball quickly, switching the point of attack, and sneaking in behind the centerbacks should all help Reign FC find a few great chances.

Quick Keys

  • Spring the attack — Fast restarts after winning the ball will be critical for Seattle on Saturday. Players like Steph Catley and Jess Fishlock could play a big role in springing Megan Rapinoe and Jodie Taylor in the same way Houston found Daly.
  • 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 Ertz and Yuki Nagasato, who both have the ability to send dangerous through balls into the box.
  • Use the width — Chicago’s outside backs have been solid this year, but the backline struggles when they get stretched too wide. Naho Kawasumi and Rapinoe will be asked to do a lot on the wings, and they need to be supported by the Reign outside backs. If they do it right, this could be a game where sneaky runs into the box by Seattle’s midfield will result in a goal or two.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Saturday, May 19 @ 7:00 PM

Location: UW Medicine Pitch at Memorial Stadium, Seattle, WA

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