Thorns FC Opponent Dossier: Chicago Red Stars - June 1, 2013

Familiar foes Chicago make their first visit to The Rose City

Chicago Red Stars huddle, 5.31.13

Photo Credit: 
Photo courtesy of Chicago Red Stars

Back at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday (2pm PT, TICKETS, webstream & Freedom 970), the Portland Thorns take on the Chicago Red Stars for the third time this season. Find out all the inside information on the opposition.

What happened when the teams last met?
The Thorns recorded their fourth straight win with a 2-0 triumph at the Benedictine Sports Complex and their second 2-0 victory over Chicago in the season. A goal from Alex Morgan after just three minutes sent Cindy Parlow Cone’s on their way before Allie Long made sure of the three points. It was a game that the Thorns largely dominated with Morgan registering five of their nine shots on goal.

Largely untroubled, the Thorns dictated the tempo and created the better opportunities with their 15 shots becoming a new club record. But when goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc was called on, she delivered with four saves to pick up a second clean sheet against Chicago this year. Referee Karl Seitz had a busy game – blowing up 12 times for fouls made by Chicago, while cautioning both Rachael Buehler and Chicago's Alyssa Mautz.

What did the Thorns learn from that game?
The most basic lesson that the Thorns picked up from that victory was that taking your chances is vital. If Morgan had missed her golden opportunity so early on when Nikki Marshall slid a pass through to her, then it could have turned out to be a completely different game and given the opposition confidence. But the U.S. star kept her cool and converted to give the Thorns something to build on.

As they streamed forward regularly, the Thorns looked increasingly dangerous with Christine Sinclair smashing a shot against the underside of the crossbar. On another day, they maybe would have won by a far more comfortable margin, but the control that Cone’s team showed in not giving up too many shots was crucial to their win. They showed a coolness in tight situations and never really looked like falling behind.

What did they have to say?
Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Erin McLeod
“We came out a little flat. Portland is a phenomenal team and they have a couple of good players. If you give them too much space, they finish. Unfortunately, they scored in the first two minutes and we were battling for the rest of the game.”

How has Chicago fared since then?
They have only had one outing since playing the Thorns on May 12 and that also resulted in defeat as they fell 2-1 away to Western New York Flash. After Lori Chalupny opened the scoring, goals from Abby Wambach and McCall Zebroni swung the game around for New York in Rochester. That was Chicago’s fourth defeat from six league games.

In fairness to Chicago, they did try to turn their fortunes around by starting with a 4-3-3 formation in an attempt to start on the front foot. And it worked too when Chalupny fired in following a crisp passing move, but maintaining that same tempo proved to be difficult especially when New York began to pile the pressure on. But it was certainly an improvement and a performance that they can take positives from.

KEY PERSONNEL

Head coach: Rory Dames
With time spent at St Louis University and serving as director of coaching for the Eclipse Select Soccer Club, Dames knows all about soccer at various levels. Due to his Chicago roots, he possesses a strong knowledge of the local scene and its best players. So he was a natural fit to take charge of the Red Stars, who he previously coached in the WPSL and WPSL Elite.

Star Player: Inka Grings
The all-time leading goalscorer in the German women's Bundesliga, Grings, along with fellow former German international Sonja Fuss, bring a whole new dimension to the Red Stars attack. With 393 goals in 271 appearances for FCR 2011 Duisburg, there's no question Grings can score.

One To Watch: Zakiya Bywaters
Selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NWSL College Draft, this 21-year-old has been tipped to forge a successful in the professional game. Making the jump from UCLA to Chicago, the Nevada native is still learning but she is a star on the rise. The more games that she plays, the better she will become.

TACTICAL VIEW

What can the Thorns expect?
A lot will depend on the line-up and the formation that Chicago start with as the 4-3-3 experiment against New York showed a lot of promise, but they may revert to a more cautious approach. However, head coach Rory Dames knows that it is time for his team to be more attack-minded with only four goals scored this season. Look for new acquisitiong Grings to feature heavily in the Red Stars offense--especially with both sides missing their U.S. and Canadian international allocated players.

The decision to start with Jessica McDonald in their last game injected a lot of pace into Chicago’s game, while Maribel Dominguez also earned a start up front. But they are only going to get the best out of McDonald if she is used regularly and supplied with the type of service that would allow her to move into dangerous positions. If that does happen, then Chicago can cause a lot of problems with their pace and power.

Who are their main threats?
With Shannon Boxx out injured, Chicago is missing, arguably, their most important player, but they do still have plenty of quality players to call on with Ella Masar, Dominguez and Bywaters all possessing attacking ability to get their team moving.

Where are they most vulnerable?
Without the leadership and control of Boxx, Chicago is missing a driving force in the middle of the pitch. And that also makes them quite vulnerable against a team like the Thorns, who can transition quickly from defense into attack.

Did You Know?
Chicago players Ella Masar and Carmelina Moscato have been producing their own comedy videos on YouTube with the focus on their team, team-mates, and the NWSL.