Sunday is shaping up to be one of the biggest days in recent memory for US Soccer, as both the men’s and women’s teams will compete in finals, with one looking to extend a historic run while the other looks for a signature win under a new head coach.
Both games figure to draw a lot of attention as the U.S Women’s National team aim for its second straight World Cup title when they take on the Netherlands at 10 a.m CT followed by the Gold Cup Final at Soldier Field between the U.S and Mexico at 8 p.m CT. Chicago soccer fans will be paying close attention to both games with plenty of Chicago connections on both rosters, not to mention the final being at Soldier Field.
Here is a look at the Chicago connections to keep an eye on in both games.
Chicago Red Stars
Coming into the World Cup, many questioned whether Alyssa Naeher could be trusted in the big moment. Those questions grew louder after she gifted Spain a goal in the round of 16 that nearly cost the US a spot in the quarterfinals.
It’s safe to safe she erased those doubts in the semifinal win over England when she saved a penalty kick from England star Steph Houghton that would have leveled the game at two with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation. Instead of heading to extra time, the USWNT held on for a 2-1 victory that clinched their spot in the finals against the Netherlands.
Her teammate, striker Alex Morgan, who was named Player of the Game, quickly added following the match in her opinion that honor should have gone to Naeher, despite Morgan scoring the go-ahead goal in the first half.
“She saved our a– in that moment,” Morgan said in the mixed zone after the game.
Head coach Jill Ellis has talked often in this tournament about needing everyone to contribute if the U.S hoped to defend its World Cup title. Tuesday it was Naeher’s turn and she will try to do the same on Sunday morning.
Arguably one of the most important players on head coach Jill Ellis’s squad, Ertz has played in five of the six matches in this World Cup.
Ertz primarily plays as a defensive midfielder but has tracked back at times when the U.S has switched to a back-five defense as they did against England on Tuesday.
The Red Stars midfielder has also got involved offensively, scoring one of the three goals for the US in its group stage match against Chile. Overall, she has attempted eight shots with two shots on goal.
Appearing in her first World Cup, Davidson received one start for Ellis against Chile in the Americans’ 3-0 win en route to a perfect group stage.
Davidson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NWSL Draft, is one of the rising stars of the US defense and at just 20 years old, should draw valuable experience as she returns home to rejoin the Red Stars and prepare for future World Cups.
Much like Davidson, Brian has also served as an option off the bench for Ellis this tournament. Brian entered during the second half of the group stage win over Chile for midfielder Rose Lavelle.
While Brian has not played a lot in this tournament, she has served as a veteran adding international experience to the squad, something Ellis mentioned earlier this tournament she felt was important, after being one of the brightest young players in the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
There haven’t been many better stories this tournament than the play of Chicago native Reggie Cannon.
After receiving a last-minute call-up on his birthday, Cannon entered as a substitute against Trinidad & Tobago, started against Panama and then again against Jamaica in the semifinals. Sunday figures to be a special day for Cannon as he returns home to Chicago for the Gold Cup final.
The Chicago Fire midfielder has appeared in two games for new head Gregg Berhalter during this run to the final.
Mihailovic’s lone start of the tournament came against Panama in the final game of the group stage for the U.S, although he also entered as a substitute against Guyana in the opening game of the tournament.
Mihailovic has not recorded a shot on goal, but did register one shot against Panama.
The former Northwestern goalkeeper has not appeared so far in the tournament with all of the starting nods being given to Zack Steffen.