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Chicago hosts first-place Washington Spirit in final 2016 home match

CHICAGO – In what could potentially be a warm-up between one semifinal match-up, Chicago will host the Washington Spirit in their final match of the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League regular season on Saturday, September 24 at 7 p.m. CT. This weekend’s results between Chicago vs. Washington and Portland vs. Sky Blue will decide whether the Red Stars will travel to Portland or Washington for the Playoff match.

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Chicago recently clinched its back-to-back Playoff entry after a 0-0 draw in Kansas City last week. Despite having defender Arin Gilliland and forward Stephanie McCaffrey subbed out within the first 25 minutes against FC Kansas City due to injury, the Red Stars were able to hold their own to earn the one point needed to make one of the semifinal matches.

Heading into the final match of the regular season, head coach Rory Dames is confident in the improvements his team has made over the course of the season to overwhelm Washington. Instead of solely looking at coming face-to-face with the number one team in the league, Chicago will focus on their own style of play.

“We’ve made great strides from the beginning of the year to where we are and the growth in the group has been exceptional,” said Dames. “I want to see us continuing to show the progress we have made throughout the season. Again, we are an extremely young team, and to continue to evolve into what we are capable of being, that’s the biggest thing for us.

“As we’ve done most of the year, our focus has been on ourselves and not so much on who we will be playing against. We have some players that need to get some minutes. We have players that need some rest. Our focus is just on our group and doing what we need to do to give ourselves the best chance to continue to go forward in the season.”

At this Saturday’s match, Chicago can expect Washington to come with a multitude of experienced players, including U.S. International and Spirit captain Ali Krieger, who will look to control her experienced backline that have only allowed a league-low 18 goals, with Canadian Stephanie Labbé (5 shutouts) in goal. Argentina midfielder Estefania Banini (5 goals), while Joanna Lohman, Katie Stengel, and Canadian Diana Matheson (4 goals each) will be the true offensive threat for the Chicago defense. U.S. forward Crystal Dunn will be dangerous with her crosses as she has five assists this season.

With the possibility of facing Washington again in the semifinal, or possibly the NWSL Championship, Chicago will not overlook the last match in order to strategize for the Playoffs, but will use this game as a backbone to prepare themselves for the eventual outcome.

“We’ve always been a team that approaches every game with an intent to go out and play the best we can to win the game. There’s 100 different scenarios that could play out, so when you start to worry about those scenarios in your planning, technique and tactics, it usually backfires on you. We will approach the game like we would any other one.”

Coming from a player’s perspective, Chicago midfielder Danielle Colaprico commented on how she’s seen the team progress from the beginning of the season to what this game will provide them for the Playoffs, hoping to capitalize on the Spirit’s recent shutout loss against the Seattle Reign.

“We’re building out of the back and playing some good soccer. I truly feel like we are coming into form,” said Colaprico. “This game is more preparation for when we get to the playoffs, and we want to be able to expose them now if we possibly get matched up against them.”

The third-place Chicago Red Stars battle FC Kansas City for the final regular season match at Toyota Park in 2016 on September 24 at 7 p.m. CT for Fan Appreciation Night. Tickets to the match are available here or by calling 773-697-8699.

Season tickets are currently on sale for the Chicago Red Stars 2017 season at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois and can be purchased here.

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