CHICAGO- The Chicago Red Stars will make their fourth consecutive appearance in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Semifinals against the North Carolina Courage. The two teams are set to kick-off on Tuesday, September 18 at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPNews and ESPN3 in Portland, Oregon.
Here are four reasons to watch:
This is not unfamiliar territory for both teams. The Red Stars and Courage faced off in the semifinals of the 2017 NWSL playoffs. The Courage were victorious in a heartbreaking game for the Red Stars, who conceded a goal in the 90th to be eliminated from contention.
This season, both teams meet in the same round once again, with the Red Stars looking to avenge last season’s loss.
Out of the three prior matchups this season between the Chicago and North Carolina, only once has a team walked away victorious.
In their first meeting of 2018, Kerr scored her first goal in a Red Stars uniform while goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher had 11 saves. North Carolina’s goal in the 82nd minute leveled the score as the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
Their final regular season match ended in a 1-1 once again, but it was Chicago’s turn to come from behind and earn the point. Kerr scored once again and her second half equalizer salvaged a draw for Chicago at home.
Battle of the Strikers
North Carolina’s Lynn Williams has been the key to the Courage’s attack in 2018 . Her 14 goals in the regular season was good enough to earn her a second place finish in the NWSL Golden Boot Race. The woman who beat her to the honor? Chicago’s Sam Kerr, who with 16 goals won the Golden Boot for the second consecutive season.
Both strikers have combined for 30 goals this season, and both place either first or second shots and shots on goal. With both players fit to step on the pitch Sunday, the two best strikers of 2018 are set to face-off one final time.
With both teams boasting the best strikers in the NWSL, it should come as no surprise the Red Stars and Courage also feature the top assist providers in the league as well. For North Carolina, Jessica McDonald co-led the league with eight assists on the year. Chicago’s Yuki Nagasato was equally as busy creating chances for the Red Star’s attack tallying eight assists of her own.
Both women also successfully converted 43 key passes this season, though Nagasato features a 74.2% passing rate on 533 successful passes compared to McDonald’s 62.4% conversion rate on 267 successful passes. Both women have the ability to spearhead the attack on teams capable of scoring plenty of goals.
The NWSL semifinal is one-game playoff, meaning both the Courage and Red Stars are one game away from punching their ticket to Portland and the NWSL Championship.
With no room for error and the potential of one moment of brilliance making the difference on Sunday, the drama the NWSL already boasts will be amplified when the two teams meet.