Preview: Chicago Set to Face Houston in Preseason Matchup

CHICAGO – The Chicago Red Stars will play their second preseason matchup in this year’s Thorns Spring Invitational, presented by Tillamook, against the Houston Dash of the NWSL.

The Red Stars have travelled 23 players to Portland to compete in the tournament, led by captain Christen Press. In the first preseason match for Chicago, which 18 players saw action in, the Red Stars lost to Portland 1-0 after a penalty kick.

Julie Ertz (Johnston), the starting centerback for the Chicago Red Stars, will not be available for these matches due to her honeymoon.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Houston Dash
Kickoff: March 29 | 7 p.m. CT
Location: Providence Park; Portland, Oregon

2016: 8th place (6-10-4)
Players to Watch: Janine Beckie, Rachel Daly, Stephanie Ochs, Kealia Ohai

Despite missing their two U.S. Women’s National Team members in Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian, Houston defeated the U.S. U-23 WNT 2-1 in their first match of the Thorns Spring Invitational.

The leadership and ability of Houston’s frontline is what will make them a contender in the 2017 NWSL season and a strong preseason match for Chicago. Between Kealia Ohai (11 goals, 2 assists), Canadian Janine Beckie (3 goals, 2 assists), and England international Rachel Daly (4 goals, 4 assists), the Dash have plenty of weapons to lead the attack.

With a 1.47 goals against average between Bianca Henninger (5 games) and Lydia Williams (15 games), the defensive presence of Houston will be the biggest call to action during this preseason and will be tested by the Chicago attack of Sofia Huerta, Stephanie McCaffrey and Christen Press.

2016: 3rd place (9-5-6, lost to Washington Spirit 1-2 in semifinals)

Players to Watch: Arin Gilliland, Summer Green, Stephanie McCaffrey, Christen Press

With the return of Sofia Huerta, Jen Hoy, Alyssa Naeher and Press for this preseason game, the Chicago side might look a little different against Houston. Press scored 25 goals in 37 matches, despite dropping to an attacking midfield position for games in 2016. With Stephanie McCaffrey (2 goals, 5 starts) and Sofia Huerta (7 goals, 2 assists) both heating up at the end of the 2016 season, the two will look to combine on the attack with Press.

The defensive backline will have the guidance of Naeher back with the team in goal. Arin Gilliland and Casey Short, who both started all 20 matches in 2016, are often considered the best outside back duo in the league. Samantha Johnson (rolled ankle) was scratched from the starting lineup against Portland, where Sarah Gorden filled in at the centerback role. The backline will be challenged with the Houston forwards and look to make a strong impression.

With 23 players to evaluate during the tournament, head coach Rory Dames will have a chance to scout his own players against the top teams in the NWSL before the final roster cut.

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