Denise Duffy and Jonathon Hagger begin their new weekly feature focusing on the NWSL bringing us previews and behind-the-scenes opinions, including access to the club media conferences (4/5/22).
Above: Kristie Mewis and Lynn Williams celebrate a goal for Gotham FC against Washington Spirit last month. Photo: Vincent Carchietta/USA Today.
Chicago Red Stars will battle Gotham FC, on Sunday 7th May at 6pm (ET) at SeetGeek stadium in Bridgeview in what we are dubbing the Windy City derby.
Gotham FC comes into the match with a solid record to open the season at 3-2-0. This is a far more cohesive Bats team than the one that finished bottom of the table in NWSL in 2022. They are up against a rebuilt Red Stars team at 1-3-1 who is finding themselves towards the bottom.
Lynn Williams is once again thriving at Gotham, establishing herself as a top playmaker and finisher in the league. Midge Purce, another major threat, is still on the injury list as of Wednesday due to a hip injury. Her return to the field would bring another goal-scoring weapon and the potential to work with Williams as they did in the early matches this season.
Looking across the rest of the Gotham side, here are players to watch out for –
- Abby Smith – Goalkeeper. Smith had an outstanding performance in the first half against the KC Current in her last outing. A calm collected Abby Smith, known for her long distributions, is a formidable opponent between the sticks.
- Bruninha – Defender. At 20 years of age Bruninha has future international superstar written all over her. Hailing from Brazil, Bruninha’s stock is on the rise.
- Ifeoma Onumonu – Forward. Ifeoma is a very classy midfielder both on and off the pitch. Ifefoma rocks Gotham’s famous “Fitwalk”.
Chicago on the other hand have started the season slowly, only winning only one of their five games, with their two NWSL away games resulting in losses. The heaviest loss being 5-2 against the OL Reign prior to earning a gritty 1-1 draw against the Washington Spirit.
The Red Stars will continue to lean on a midfield of international veterans of Yuki Nagasato and Namibian-born and German international Sandra Starke. Fan favourite Nagasato will continue to be an important leader and playmaker on this team. Starke recently joined the Red Stars on loan from VfL Wolfsburg.
Chicago is a team that had a big player turnover in the off-season, acquiring a sizable number of new players and rebuilding their midfield. They are still working on their chemistry and combinations.
Chicago’s draw against the last-round opponent, Washington Spirit will give the Red Stars confidence that they can compete against other quality sides. Players to watch out for include:
- Cari Roccaro – Midfield. Cari’s work rate on attack and defence makes her a crucial tool in the Red Stars toolbox.
- Tatumn Milazzo – Defender. Tatumn is the hardest-working player in the team. She is a point of focus both going forwards and also defending the line.
- Penelope Hocking – Forward. Penelope is Chicago’s number one strike weapon. If the Red Stars midfield can press high and open spaces for shots then Hocking will be a key target.
What to expect in this match –
- Gotham FC are a second-half team. Many of their goals so far this season have come deep in the second half.
- The dynamism of Lynn Williams paired with Taylor Smith, Ifeoma Onumonu, or perhaps a healthy Midge Purce will be the key targets.
- Chicago’s Ally Schlegel and Bianca St-Georges (DM) are a very real goal-scoring threat. Schlegel may be brand new in the NWSL though she is already making her mark.
- Anything could happen. The Chicago Red Stars team could either dazzle or disappoint their fans depending entirely on how they turn up to play. If Gotham can go ahead early we could well see Chicago crumble.
Keepers – Alyssa Naeher vs Abby Smith, it’s hard not to give the edge to the USWNT number one. Abby Smith continues to have something to prove and has had moments of brilliance this season.
Backline – Casey Krueger, Tierna Davidson, Arin Wright, and Tatum Milazzo should be able to go against the best in the league, if in the world, and they get the edge from us. Gotham’s high-playing backline is talented, but still learning to gel.
Midfield – Given what the team lost in free agency, Chicago’s midfield is not as bad as we thought it would be. Still, if Gotham can get veterans Long, Zerboni, and Mewis all humming together this team could be hard to beat. Gotham’s Yazmeen Ryan was a great get from the Thorns with tremendous agility, pace, and exceptional ball control.
Front Line – Taylor Smith, Ifeoma Onumonu, and the consummate hustler on both sides of the ball, Lynn Williams. We give the front-line edge to Gotham. Even stronger if Midge Purse is ready to go.
Coaching – Juan Carlos Amorós seems to have the respect of the players. We are both giving out support to Gotham. The Gotham players have described Amorós style as ‘letting them play’ which the players have warmed to. In contrast, Chicago’s coach Joseph Petrucelli has shown a bias towards playing defensively and playing counter attack football. We’re giving the coaching advantage to Amorós.
Back Office – Both teams are in a rebuilding year. With the hiring of former NWSL stars Yale Averbuch, General Manager, Darien Jenkins as Chief of Staff, and transitioning Ashlyn Harris, from Goal Keeper to Global Creative Advisor, Gotham that has the pulse on what the future of women’s football is all about.
Fans and Intangibles – We were pretty split on this. Both teams have had hardcore supporters that have changed the game for the better.
|Denise||✔||2 – 0|
|Jonathon||✔||3 – 1|