Casey Krueger and the Chicago Red Stars have nine points left on the table to try to make it to the playoffs. Photo by Jeff Vorva
Pro Soccer Report | Red Stars seeking max points in quest for playoffs
By Jeff Vorva
With three games to go and in last place, the Chicago Red Stars are in a position to be spoilers.
But in this unpredictable NWSL season in which teams are bunched up in the standings, the Red Stars are in a position where they can play more than merely that role.
Strange as it sounds, they are not mathematically eliminated from gaining one of the last six playoff spots. They know that getting nine points would be huge in their quest for the postseason.
“The playoff spot is a huge focus — that’s what we are all doing this for,” Ava Cook said. “It’s definitely something that we want to do and we’re working hard to do it.
“We talked a little bit about the games before this and to build off of those games because those were good performances for us to keep moving forward in that direction and I think if we just continue to play the way that we have been playing and growing from that, we’ll have success.”
The team is 6-10-3 with 21 points heading into the final stretch. Washington currently owns the sixth and final playoff spot with 26 points.
The bad news for the Red Stars is that they have not won three straight games all season. The good news for Chicago is that it has gone 3-1-2 in its last six games and is relatively healthy heading into the trio of important games.
“We have most of squad and figuring out the starting lineup is a good problem to have,” Red Stars coach Chris Petrucelli said. “Trying to pick the first 11 is a little bit difficult. Knowing that you can go to the bench and bring players on that can change the game is good to have.
“At times we’ve struggled to fill the bench. So now we have mostly everybody back. I think you can see the difference it has made.”
The Red Stars host Louisville (5-5-9) at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, then visit Kansas City (7-11-1) on Oct. 7 and wrap the regular season up back at SeatGeek at 4 p.m. Oct. 15 against OL Reign (8-8-3).
More bad news for the team: The Red Stars are 0-3 against those three teams in league play and have been outscored a combined 12-4 in those games.
But Petrucelli is relishing the challenge.
“Look, we need every point we can get,” he said. “We’re still alive and when you get to this point in the season, if you have some success, it just makes the next game more important. We want to play in those kinds of games. We want to play in games that matter. We want to play games that determine where we’re going at the end of the season.
“This keeps us moving forward — maybe not as fast as we would like — but we are moving forward.”
The last time the Red Stars failed to make the playoffs was 2014.
Naeher to return
The Red Stars announced today that the club has exercised the contract option for world-class goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for 2024.
Naeher joined the Chicago Red Stars in 2016 and has earned multiple NWSL honors while tending goal for the team.
One of the few active players remaining from the NWSL’s inception in 2013, Naeher has started in 186 of 187 matches across all competitions, amassing 16,800 minutes and 638 saves while holding a 1.58 goals against average.
This season, Naeher became the first goalkeeper in NWSL history to reach 150 regular-season games played. In the same match, she recorded her 500th career save, making her the second goalkeeper to reach the milestone.
Fire II makes playoffs
The Chicago Fire II finished the regular season with its 11th tie of the season, but it was still good enough to earn a spot in the MLS NXT Pro playoffs.
The Fire tied Huntsville City FC 2-2 on Sept. 24 in Huntsville, Alabama. Chicago (9-8-11, 43 points) grabbed the sixth slot in the Eastern Conference.
As of this paper’s deadline, the first-round opponent has not been picked. In this league, the top seed gets a bye while the second and third seeds get to choose their opponents for the quarterfinals, which take place the weekend of Sept. 29.
Omar Glasgow and Billy Hency scored goals for the Fire. It was Glasgow’s fifth goal of the season and Hency’s eighth.
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