CHICAGO – The Red Stars look to gain three points when they take on Portland Thorns FC in Lifetime’s Game of the Week on April 29, at 3 p.m. CT at Providence Park.
After the action in Week 2, Portland fell to sixth place after North Carolina Courage found a late goal at home to defeat the Thorns, 1-0. In the season opener, Portland’s captain Christine Sinclair and Nadia Nadim each found the back of the net to defeat Orlando Pride, 2-0.
Chicago is coming off a shutout win after Julie Ertz scored the game-winning goal thanks to Sofia Huerta’s assist, defeating Midwestern rival FC Kansas City. Ertz was moved into the attacking midfield position after missing the practices leading up to the match due to a minor injury.
“We have to figure out how to get all of our best players out onto the field,” said head coach Rory Dames on getting Ertz on the field. “She [Ertz] could end up in the backline tomorrow, she could end up as a 6, she could end up as a 10. We’ve been very predictable over the last 2 years and very stagnant with who our players are. It’s just very competitive to get on the field right now.”
Ertz felt right at home in the central midfield position after having plenty experience at the 10 role during her collegiate career at Santa Clara University.
“I felt really comfortable. The easiest thing is that my teammates were all for it [changing position] and behind me and cheering me on,” said Ertz. “To do it at this level, obviously, is a little bit different from college, so I’m still learning as well. But it was really fun.”
With the win over Kansas City, Chicago jumped up to fourth place with a 1-1-0 record.
Chicago hopes to capitalize off their recent win, but know that the team is coming into a difficult environment. After already having a taste of playing in the city during the Thorns Spring Invitational during preseason, rookie midfielder Morgan Proffitt has now experienced it firsthand.
“After playing Portland in our preseason game, the atmosphere out there is absolutely incredible,” said Proffitt. “It’s exciting to go back out there and play again.”
With an incredible atmosphere comes a tough team, as the Red Stars hold a 1-4-6 record against the Thorns. The only victory for Chicago dates back to the inaugural season in 2013 when the Red Stars took a win on the road at Providence Park.
The Thorns have outscored the Red Stars, 13-18, during their 11 meetings. Despite the overall scoreline, Chicago’s captain Christen Press has had strong success against Portland, scoring five goals in seven appearances.
It’ll be a true contest between offense and defense as the league’s leader in shots – Press with 10 – will look to get one past Thorns’ goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, who has a save percentage of 90.9% this season. But both teams have their respected playmakers in Chicago’s Press, Ertz, Huerta, Vanessa DiBernardo and Alyssa Naeher and Portland’s Nadim, Sinclair, Allie Long and Tobin Heath, who will look for her first minutes in the 2017 NWSL season.
“We are taking training day-by-day and really focused on Portland’s patterns and techniques,” said Proffitt. “We know it’s a really competitive environment, but we are excited to get a result this weekend.”
As Lifetime’s Game of the Week, Chicago and Portland will kick off on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT, but tune in for the pregame broadcast beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT.