Chicago Red Stars got back to winning last weekend after going up against reigning NWSL champions North Carolina Courage on Mother’s Day.
The team was shorthanded this week after losing club veteran Alyssa Mautz to an ACL tear, and Katie Johnson to a red card suspension. Despite also losing their U.S. National Team players, the Red Stars came away with a 3-1 win thanks to goals from Sam Kerr and Michele Vasconcelos, who slotted in for the suspended Johnson.
Kerr, Chicago’s Australian superstar, ended the match with a brace and an assist on the night and earned NWSL Player of the Week Honors.
Head Coach Rory Dames praised Kerr’s performance in post-game comments, adding that the collection of the teams’ superstars are constantly putting in the work and effort to be better and Kerr is included in that special group.
“That’s the one of the things about our culture here that I really enjoy,” said Dames.
“The amount of chances she creates purely because of how powerful she is [. . .] she creates chances that other people can’t create, and that’s really what we’ve tried to instill in her – is don’t get so caught up with the ones that you miss.”
“I think the more that she has that mentality and just keeps going? The more dangerous she’s going to be,” said Dames.
He concluded, “I wouldn’t want to play against her in France.”
Rookies starting to earn minutes
With players heading off for the World Cup, Chicago’s rookie class is beginning to see time on the pitch.
The Red Stars second-round draft pick Maria Sanchez and third-round pick Jenna Szczsney helped close out the win against the Courage. It was their season debut.
“Honestly, it was unreal for me,” said Sanchez. “My first game as a professional soccer player, and to beat a team like North Carolina was really awesome. I’m really happy to be here.”
The Mexican international showed off a bit of her tactical style as she subbed into the game at the 66th minute.
Dames has implied that in the upcoming stretch of games taking place ahead of, and during, the World Cup, a player like Sanchez would likely see more playing time. The coaching staff is challenging her with improving her defensive skill set while being true to her style of play.
“She’s probably been in the top third of the team in the training,” said Dames.
“But we wanted to be selective about when we first put her in so she could try to find her way. And that was just a glimpse. That was just a glimpse of the stuff that she’s capable of, and the things that we see every day in training.”
As the Red Stars approach week 6 in the season, they are still looking for their first win on the road.
Chicago will face off against Houston Dash this weekend and it will be Kerr’s final match with the club before she sets off on World Cup duty with Australia. While the Dash are without some significant players of their own, Chicago will be going up against an offensive threat in Kealia Ohai and former Red Star Sofia Huerta.
Chicago’s defense will want to put together a strong 90-minute performance for a result, with second-year goalkeeper Emily Boyd looking for her first shutout. Boyd kept NC Courage at bay last week, conceding only one goal.
“Emily’s a good goalie,” said Dames. “She doesn’t give away a lot, but she’ll get better every week.”
Red Stars face Houston Dash on Sunday, May 19 at 5 pm CT in BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas.