Chicago Red Stars brings women’s soccer playoff back to the Windy City

By Krystina Iordanou
Medill Reports

For only the second time in franchise history, the Chicago Red Stars will host a semifinal playoff game against Portland Thorns FC Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Seat Geek Stadium in Bridgeview.

The matchup marks the fourth meeting this season between the two clubs, with Portland having the 2-0-1 edge on the Red Stars. The Red Stars left scoreless in their last two meetings with the Thorns this season.

Many star players will be on the field Sunday afternoon, as the clubs have a combined eight players from this year’s U.S. World Cup winning squad. And that doesn’t count other well-known international players such as Sam Kerr, who is this year’s Golden Boot winner, with 18 goals on the season.

The Red Stars are excited to be hosting the playoff match at home, an advantage that the Thorns have had since 2016.

“A huge point is that we get to play them at home. They don’t get their 20,000+ fans behind them, which is a huge advantage” for the home team, said Red Stars forward Savannah McCaskill.

Portland comes into the game as the third seed in the league standings. Despite only winning one game out of their last five matches, the Thorns have a dynamic offense having that scored 10 goals against the Red Stars this season.

The Red Stars plan to contain the Thorns offensive play makers while sustaining their style of play, said midfielder Morgan Brian, U.S. Women’s National Team.

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Morgan Brian’s midfield presence this year makes her a key player to watch this Sunday. Photo Credit: ISI Photography

“Unfortunately, we’ve been on a lot of the losing ends, but I think that it’s a different week, a different game. We are really familiar with them, so I think that’s helpful, so we know exactly what they want to do and what they bring to the table,” said Brian.

Brian believes this year’s team is one of the best in Chicago’s franchise history.

Consistency has been a staple for the Red Stars this season despite lineup changes due to the loss of key players during the World Cup this summer. The team has stayed high in the leagues standing all year, which allowed Chicago to clinch their playoff berth on Sept. 25.

“I think everyone is in a good place mentally and physically where we need to be heading into the playoffs,” said Brian.

The rise of popularity in women’s soccer in the U.S. is on a roll since the U.S. Women’s National Team won their second consecutive World Cup back in July. Players hope to continue the trend by growing the National Women’s Soccer League brand locally for their team, as well as nationally.

“I think Chicago is only going up from here, attendance average has gone up all over the league, so I think for us it just to continue to create a fan base and culture here of winning,” said Brian.

Both McCaskill and Brian emphasized the importance of having the playoffs broadcast nationally as a major factor in the rapid growth of the game and fan base.

Fans can watch the game live on ESPN2 at 2:30 p.m. CTD. The winner of the semifinal match will advance to the National Women’s Soccer League Championship Sunday, Oct. 27, at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.

Tickets can still be purchased here: https://bit.ly/2MoaWqJ

Photo at top: Chicago looks to clinch their first semifinal win in franchise history for a hometown crowd. Photo Credit: ISI Photography
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