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CHICAGO — In the last two games, the Chicago Red Stars were pitted against the two teams who played in last year’s National Women’s Soccer League Championship. This week the tough stretch of games for Chicago continues as they complete their tour of games against every NWSL playoff team for 2018 when they host Reign FC.

Three games between the two teams last year produced a single goal, with games turning into defensive battles for most of the 90 minutes. Chicago’s leader Julie Ertz will play a huge part in the team’s shape and fluidity throughout the midfield for the team.

Ertz has played in the midfield the previous two games, as the backline has seen Tierna Davidson, Katie Naughton, Sarah Gorden, Arin Wright, and Casey Short all earn minutes.

In 15 games last year, Ertz won the tackles (52.9%), duels (57.8%) and aerial duels (57.4%) while on the pitch. In the two games of 2019, her numbers have only improved. Ertz boasts an 80% tackle success rate and has nearly doubled the number of duels won over lost, boasting an impressive 63.3% duel success rate.

That’s no coincidence. In the defensive midfield position, Ertz helped the U.S. Women’s National Team to an unbeaten 2018. Playing a similar role for her country and for the club will only help Ertz, who is already one of the top players in the world.

Two talented teams will play on Saturday. When talent is equal, a game boils down to focus and organization. With Ertz, Chicago has a veteran leader who can read the game nearly better than anyone else, and she will be a huge key in the Red Stars containing Reign FC once again.