CHICAGO — For the second time this season, the Chicago Red Stars and North Carolina Courage are set to faceoff. Different from their opening day matchup, however, is the factor of the missing national team players as the likes of Julie Ertz, Crystal Dunn, and others prepare for the World Cup. With a change in the landscape of the NWSL arriving, here are the keys to the match for Sunday’s game:
Sam Kerr and Lynn Williams finished first and second respectively in the 2018 NWSL Golden Boot race, and both have continued their scoring ways early this season. Williams had consecutive games with a goal and an assist for the Courage. With Crystal Dunn and Jessica McDonald with the U.S. WNT World Cup roster, she will now be the main source of the attack for North Carolina. Kerr also has two goals on the season, including the opening goal against Sunday’s foes when the two teams met opening weekend. For the second time this year, two of the premier strikers in the league will go head-to-head this Sunday.
Speaking of goalscoring, both the Courage and Red Stars have done plenty of it to begin this season. North Carolina routed Orlando and Houston consecutive weeks, scoring nine goals in those two games and 10 total this season through four matches. The Red Stars put four past Portland and three against Reign FC, with their season total sitting at eight. The two highest-scoring teams in the NWSL will face off Sunday at SeatGeek Stadium.
The Courage and Red Stars also combined for the joint most NWSL players on the U.S. WNT roster with four each, meaning squad depth is crucial for the summer months. Both teams have shown how valuable their bench can be. Rookie Leah Pruitt scored her first career NWSL goal for the Courage, while Michele Vasconcelos and Brooke Elby came have scored coming off the bench for Chicago. Emily Boyd has begun her responsibility as the starting goalkeeper for the Red Stars as well, and there’s a big possibility more players from both teams will get more opportunities to make an impact throughout the season.