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Key Takeaways from Chicago’s trip to Portland

CHICAGO – The Red Stars have recently finished participating in the Thorns Invitational in Portland and after three games there are plenty of positives for Chicago to look at before the regular season begins on April 13.

  1. A great first Impression

With a stacked draft class that included U.S. Women’s National Team defender Tierna Davidson, Mexican National Team forward Maria Sanchez, and other talented college players the expectations for Chicago’s rookie class to make an impact were understandably set high.

It took fewer than 90 minutes for the newcomers to show what they could provide to the team. Sanchez’s corner found fellow rookie Kayla Sharples, who headed home the lone goal against the Portland Thorns.

Sanchez would contribute another assist during the preseason, providing a great ball to Sam Kerr for the goal in the final match of the Thorns Invitational. The forward got action in all three games as did Sharples, who have impressed Red Star coaches since preseason began.

“Maria has been very good in the first three weeks as has Kayla,” Head Coach Rory Dames said to Hot Time in Old Town’s Sandra Herrera. “Based off the health of where we’re at I thought it made sense to kind of put [them] up to see how both of them would do.”

Sharples backline partner at Northwestern Hannah Davison joined her rookie classmates in getting minutes in all three games.

Top overall pick Davidson started the first game along Katie Naughton in the backline, playing the full 90 minutes against the likes of Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan in the game against Portland.

It’s still early stages for the rookie class, but with their performances at the Thorns Invitational being strong they could become key members of a Red Stars squad that will have many key players out during the World Cup.

  1. Offensive Connections

Sam Kerr comes into 2019 winning the previous two NWSL Golden Boots. Her Red Stars teammate Yuki Nagasato finished the 2018 campaign with seven assists and four goals. Both players formed a chemistry that produced plenty of goals for Chicago last year, but now the Red Stars look to have even more options in attack entering this season.

Sanchez’s bright start has already been discussed, but her Mexican National teammate Katie Johnson is gelling with the Chicago offense nicely. Kerr found Johnson for a goal in a preseason game against Seattle and the duo created more chances that threatened opposing defenses. As chemistry continues to build between the attack, more goals are sure to find the back of the net.

Add in players like Alyssa Mautz, who scored five goals of her own last season, and Chicago’s attack will be difficult to contain with five or six players being legitimate goal scorers for the Red Stars offense.

  1. Going Deep

It’s no secret that some key players from each NWSL team will be in France competing in the World Cup over the summer, leaving Chicago to look at their squad depth during their tournament midseason.

With that in mind, Dames gave game minutes to a variety of players throughout the preseason. The drafted rookies that traveled, plus last years additions of Emily Boyd, Michele Vasconcelos, Erin Yenney, and Christina Murillo could get important minutes in a year that they could be relied upon when some of their Chicago teammates are away.

This is a year where nearly everyone on the roster has a chance at significant playing time and being able to gain chemistry while playing top competition can pave the way for some names to be given the opportunity to step up in the summer months of the season.