Next Player Up: A Point in North Carolina

CHICAGO – Six games. 22 days.

A third of the season complete, the Chicago Red Stars currently sit in third place. Playing nearly two games more than everyone in the league, Chicago was put to the test to start out the 2018 season, playing six games in three weeks. However, no game would test the “next man up” theory more than the Red Stars game on the road against undefeated North Carolina.

With eight games played for Chicago so far in the season, the Red Stars have yet to have the same Starting 11 in any match. On top of that, only two players have played every minute – Alyssa Naeher and Sofia Huerta – who have both now earned the Red Stars back-to-back NWSL Player of the Week honors.

Chicago’s 2018 Starting XI

March 25, 2018 Houston Dash Naeher, Gilliland, Johnson, Naughton, Comeau, Kaskie, Colaprico, Huerta, Green, Vasconcelos, Mautz
March 31, 2018 Portland Thorns Naeher, Gorden, Johnson, Naughton, Comeau, Huerta, Colaprico, Stanton, Mautz, Gilliland, Green
April 14, 2018 Utah Royals FC Naeher, Gilliland, Johnson, Naughton, Comeau, Huerta, Colaprico, Stanton, Mautz, Vasconcelos, Nagasato
April 18, 2018 Houston Dash Naeher, Gorden, Johnson, Naughton, Comeau, Kaskie, Colaprico, Stanton, Gilliland, Green, Huerta
April 21, 2018 Sky Blue FC Naeher, Gilliland, Gorden, Naughton, Comeau, Huerta, Colaprico, Stanton, Vasconcelos, Nagasato, Mautz
April 28, 2018 Washington Spirit Naeher, Gilliland, Johnson, Naughton, Comeau, Huerta, Colaprico, Stanton, Nagasato, Mautz, Kerr
May 2, 2018 Orlando Pride Naeher, Gorden, Johnson, Naughton, Comeau, Stanton, Colaprico, Huerta, Mautz, Gilliland, Kerr
May 6, 2018 North Carolina Naeher, Mautz, Gorden, Johnson, Huerta, Stanton, Kaskie, Green, Vasconcelos, Nagasato, Kerr

Since the start of the season Chicago has been without veterans Vanessa DiBernardo, Casey Short and newcomer Rosie White, due to injuries. Add in the 16 minutes of play that Julie Ertz has been able to contribute this season and you’d be shocked to hear that Chicago is in third-place with a 2-4-2 record.

On Sunday, Rory Dames and the coaching staff were left with limited options due to the schedule that Chicago was dealt. After playing two games in five days, the player availability was limited and the staff was left to figure out who could play and provide meaningful points on the road.

In an attempt to rest defender Katie Naughton and midfielder Danielle Colaprico for the first time this season, Sarah Gorden was pushed to the centerback position in replace of Naughton, while Lauren Kaskie earned her third start of the season and dropped into a more defensive role in place of Colaprico. Meanwhile, the outside back position, held predominantly by Arin Gilliland and Taylor Comeau, saw two new, yet familiar faces – Alyssa Mautz and Huerta. Mautz, one of the best one-on-one defenders on the team, and Huerta, pushing for playing time as an outside back for the U.S. Women’s National Team, were pressed to face one of the best attacking fronts of the NWSL in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Kaskie, Summer Green and Michele Vasconcelos earned starts in the midfield for Chicago, along with Nikki Stanton. Kaskie and Green, both in their second season, and Vasconcelos in her rookie year, have only 13 NWSL starts combined. On the other side, North Carolina is filled with a veteran midfield including McCall Zerboni, Sam Mewis and Debinha, who combined have over 150 NWSL appearances.

To no one’s surprise, the game was pushed to North Carolina’s favor. Even the match announcers expected Chicago to come out with a loss with a lineup no one expected.

However, in this game, people forgot about a lot of things.

The talent of Alyssa Naeher.
Sam Kerr is the best in the world.
Sarah Gorden is one of the fastest in the league.
And most importantly, people forgot that this team fights for each other.

“My goal is the team goal,” said Sam Kerr. “Win a Championship. As simple as that.”

With the addition of Kerr to the lineup, Chicago is slowly showing their talent and why they are contenders for this year’s NWSL Championship. By the time Short, DiBernardo, White and Ertz, are inserted into the lineup, the Red Stars will be a scary team with a deep and talented roster that has earned valuable experience.

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