Chicago will miss five veterans for the World Cup. Will the Red Stars be able to rely on depth to reach the playoffs for the fifth straight year?
One thing the Chicago Red Stars have been known for over the years is the ability to harness the talents of veteran players. But this season, with the World Cup in June, they’ll be forced to rely on some young talent to get them into the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
The Red Stars could be losing five players to the World Cup for the beginning portion of the season, so there are some players who are going to have to step up in their absence. The good thing for Chicago is that the absentees will be spread out over all four lines of the team.
The biggest loss will definitely be in goal with Alyssa Naeher. Naeher is the number one goalkeeper for the U.S. and has played well for the Red Stars since coming over from Boston in 2016. Emily Boyd is the backup to Naeher and will be called into action a lot in 2019. While she didn’t give up any goals in the two matches she played in last season, she’s still very inexperienced at the professional level. It will be important for the Red Stars to play clean in front of her and not force her into action a lot right away.
Chicago got a big upgrade on defense when they drafted Tierna Davidson with the number one overall pick in the 2019 draft. She will play alongside Katie Naughton in the center of the defense with Casey Short and Arin Wright most likely playing on the outside. Davidson and Short will have to be replaced in the beginning of the year. One player to keep an eye out for is Naperville, Illinois, native Kayla Sharples. A third-round draft pick, Sharples played for head coach Rory Dames during her club career growing up so she should fit in well in Chicago.
Perhaps Chicago’s biggest strength is in midfield, and they’ll be returning that core in 2019. Julie Ertz will be a force to be reckoned with in the defensive midfield spot once again and will be tough to replace while she is in France. Morgan Brian appears to be way out of the national team picture at this point, so if she can stay healthy this season, this could be big for the Red Stars. They also have the luxury of having Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo in the squad. Add in Alyssa Mautz and Nikki Stanton, and the midfield should be set in 2019.
Up top, the Red Stars have one of the hottest goalscorers in the world right now in Sam Kerr. The Australia native has taken over the NWSL goalscoring title these past two seasons and will now look to win an NWSL league championship. This offseason Chicago picked up Katie Johnson from Sky Blue. Along with Yuki Nagasato, the forms a strong attack.
The Red Stars have made the playoffs the past four years, but have been unable to make it past the semifinals. It definitely won’t be easy this year, but if they can hunker down defensively, they might just have a chance at making it five years in a row.