Sky Blue FC is final NWSL opponent for five players before heading to Canada
Chicago, Illinois – This week, the Chicago Red Stars have been preparing for their final match with the majority of their 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup players available. Legendary Canada goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc and the American quartet of Christen Press, Julie Johnston, Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny will all join up with their respective national teams following Saturday’s clash with visiting Sky Blue FC, which has the Red Stars looking to go undefeated in their first three fixtures.
The May 2 game kicks off at 5 p.m. CT at Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex and will be streamed here (English) and here (Spanish), with radio broadcasts available here (English) and here (Spanish). The English-language radio broadcast may also be accessed via smart phone by downloading the TuneIn app and searching for “ChicagolandSportsRadio.”
After claiming a dramatic 3-2 win over mighty Seattle Reign FC in its home opener, Head Coach Rory Dames’ squad drew 2-2 with league-leading Portland Thorns FC last week, despite holding a two-goal lead courtesy of a Christen Press brace just eight minutes into the match.
“I thought it was a good game between two good teams,” said Dames. “They caused us some problems in certain areas, which was good for us to see. We’ve been watching the film and going over how to fix it.”
Chicago captain Chalupny, who will be playing in her second World Cup in Canada, had the assist on Press’ opening goal against Portland, picking out her U.S. teammate with a pinpoint-accurate long pass from inside her own half. The 31-year old offered her explanation of why the momentum swung after the initial Red Stars dominance.
“I think they figured out what we were doing,” she said. “Early in the game, we were able to find our forwards and Press scored two brilliant goals, but they were able to shut that down and shut down our midfield a little bit. Then their midfield really got into the game and we had a difficult time adapting and countering that.”
Continued the St. Louis native, “It never feels good to lose a two-goal lead, especially when you’re at home. We started out very strong, but by the end of the game Portland was really taking it to us. I think we were actually kind of fortunate to come away with a tie, but we also learned a lot from the game, so we’ll take the point and hopefully move on to a better performance.”
Saturday’s fixture presents a unique opportunity for Head Coach Dames’ side, which will have six of its eight World Cup players available one last time while their opponents from New Jersey will already be without all of its Canada-bound stars, including Americans Kelley O’Hara and Christie Rampone.
In addition to Chalupny and Press, who leads the NWSL in goals with four from just two games, Chicago also features fellow USA stars Julie Johnston and Shannon Boxx, Canucks goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, and New Zealand captain Abby Erceg. With Erceg being the only player from the group of six who will be available for two more games after the meeting with Sky Blue FC, Dames stressed the importance of getting another home win with the other five still on board.
“I think it works both ways,” the man in charge of the Red Stars offered. “The players who are going to be here would like to send the internationals out on a high note and all of the ones who are leaving would like to leave the group with three points and a good game.”
The thought was echoed by World Cup and Olympic veteran Chalupny, who will return to soccer’s biggest stage this summer after five years away from the U.S. squad due to a history of head injuries. The hard-nosed defender-midfielder went the distance in both of Chicago’s opening matches, helping her side to an undefeated start to the 2015 season.
“This being the last game with most of our national team players, it would feel really good to leave the team with two wins and a tie as we head off to Canada,” she said “It would be great for everyone – for us internationals and for the rest of the Red Stars players – to leave on a good note and feeling positive about the team and about our individual play.”
Despite being without its World Cup players, Sky Blue FC could present a difficult challenge for Chicago. The New-Jersey-based club features Danish national team striker Nadia Nadim, whose country did not qualify for this summer’s tournament in Canada and who will thus be available for Saturday’s clash with the Red Stars. The 27-year-old took the NWSL by storm last year after joining her squad on loan, scoring a stunning seven times in just six matches.
Nadim is off to another strong start through three appearances in 2015, as she scored the game-winner in a 1-0 upset of hosts and defending champions FC Kansas City on April 12 and added an assist this past weekend in a 3-1 home defeat to Washington Spirit.
“(Sky Blue FC Head Coach) Jim (Gabarra) does a good job with his teams,” said Chicago’s Dames. “They were the hottest team at the end of last year and are in a good spot now. They’re coming off a loss, so I’m sure they’re motivated to come in here and put things right. We have a hard time with them and end up tying them a lot. Last year we had them down two-zero at home, but they fought back for two-two and had a great chance to win it late. That shows their resilience and how dangerous they can be.”
In addition to the June 12 draw, the 2014 campaign saw another share of the spoils between the two sides on May 7 in New Jersey, as the Red Stars came away with a 1-1 result. In the second away game against Sky Blue FC, Chicago earned out a 2-0 win on May 28 that ultimately gave the club the season series at 1-0-2.
Head Coach Dames closed his remarks by providing a summary of his mindset in the lead-up to this weekend’s match.
“Having seven points from the first three games would put us near the top of the table, so that should be one of several motivating factors,” he said. “We will keep working on the things we have to get better at, and that’s more of an issue right now than what they will do specifically. If we’re going to be a team with intentions to make a difference at the end of the year, we have to avoid the ups and downs we had in 2014. We just need to keep going game by game, stay consistent and continue to improve.”
The Chicago Red Stars look to remain unbeaten in their opening three games when they take on Sky Blue FC this coming Saturday, May 2. The meeting presents a final opportunity to see the majority of the team’s international stars in action before they depart for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. Single-game and season tickets for the 2015 Red Stars campaign may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-698-6001.
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