CHICAGO — It all comes down to this. The Chicago Red Stars face the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL Championship on Sunday, October 27. Kickoff from WakeMed Soccer Park is scheduled for 2:30 pm CT on ESPN. Here are your keys to the match. 

Bound 2: Chicago and North Carolina had the two best offenses in the NWSL thanks to the play of two fantastic duos. The Courage’s Lynn Williams and Debhina finished second in the league in goals and assists respectively. Williams finished the season with 12 goals, while Debinha’s seven assists were a large reason she was a finalist for the MVP Award. Above them in the rankings are Chicago’s Sam Kerr and Yuki Nagasato. Kerr won her third-consecutive Golden Boot with a record-breaking 18 goals this season, while Nagasato enjoyed her best season since joining Chicago in 2017. The 2011 World Cup champion led the league with eight assists and added eight goals of her own. Against Portland in the semifinal, the international connection struck when Nagasato delivered a pass on a dime to Kerr, who converted for the game’s only goal and sent Chicago to the NWSL Championship. 

Never Let Me Down: On the other side of the pitch, Chicago and North Carolina have a number of standout defenders. The Courage feature the 2018 Defender of the Year in Abby Erceg. Erceg is once again a finalist for this year’s award as well and will play alongside World Cup Champion Abby Dahlkemper. Chicago has a World Champion of their own in Tierna Davidson and a finalist for Defender of the Year in Casey Short, who is the only player in league history to ever feature in every edition of the NWSL Team of the Month throughout a season. Both defensive units were key during the semifinals, allowing one goal across both games. 

First Call: Chicago struck early in their semifinal match against Portland. Sam Kerr’s goal occurred in the eighth minute of play, marking the 12th goal this season in the first 15 minutes of the game. The Red Stars have scored on six occasions during that time span in road games. The Courage opened the scoring in the 88th minute against Reign FC in their semifinal and scored three goals in extra time to punch their ticket to the Championship. Out of North Carolina’s last 12 goals, eight of them have come in the second half.