Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra knew this day would come.
With the Chicago Red Stars having a bye week to start the season, when the teams meet tonight at 6 p.m. ET at Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex in Chicago, the Red Stars (1-0-1) do so with their full roster still intact.
Sky Blue (1-1-1), meanwhile, will be without U.S. Women’s National Team defenders Christie Rampone and Kelley O’Hara who played the final of three pre-World Cup contests last weekend in a 3-1 home defeat to the Washington Spirit. It also has been without Australian duo Caitlin Foord and Sam Kerr along with Canadian forward Jonelle Filigno and Mexican forward Monica Ocampo who will not join the team until after the World Cup.
Gabarra said postgame his team has been prepared for the uphill battle it will face against a full-strength Chicago team.
He just wishes his side had gathered more points entering the contest.
“I mean if you look at playing away to Kansas City, and then to Houston, Washington, I wouldn’t be happy with 4 [points]. I think I would want 6,” Gabarra said.
Gabarra also wasn’t too pleased with the nature of the defeat to the Spirit, with Washington turning three turnovers into three goals off the counter. The loss was Sky Blue’s first ever to the Spirit and also ended the New Jersey club’s franchise record seven-game unbeaten streak. The expected return of midfielder Taylor Lytle should give Sky Blue some reinforcements, but if the mistakes in the back continue, a positive result against a Chicago side it is 1-0-4 all-time against seems unlikely.
The Red Stars currently sit third in the NWSL standings with a quality 3-2 result over Seattle Reign FC and a 2-2 draw against Portland Thorns FC to start the year. U.S. National Team forward Christen Press has been at the forefront of the team’s early success, leading the league with four goals garnering her NWSL Player of the Month honors.
Two of the goals came in the opening eight minutes last week versus Portland only for the Red Stars to squander the lead by game’s end.
With the American quartet of Press, Julie Johnston, Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny, along with Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc and New Zealand captain Abby Erceg, departing to their respective national team’s following the game, a victory is expected.
“This being the last game with most of our national team players, it would feel really good to leave the team with two wins and a tie as we head off to Canada,” Chalupny said “It would be great for everyone – for us internationals and for the rest of the Red Stars players – to leave on a good note and feeling positive about the team and about our individual play.”
Anything less than three points would be a disappointment for Chicago who on paper at least hold a clear advantage entering the contest.
But with Danish forward Nadia Nadim continuing her hot start carried over from last season and Sky Blue expected to respond following last week’s sluggish start, Chicago head coach Rory Dames refused to overlook the New Jersey side.
“They were the hottest team at the end of last year and are in a good spot now,” Dames said. “They’re coming off a loss, so I’m sure they’re motivated to come in here and put things right. We have a hard time with them and end up tying them a lot. Last year we had them down two-zero at home, but they fought back for two-two and had a great chance to win it late. That shows their resilience and how dangerous they can be.”
Injury Report: Alyssa Mautz (doubtful) and Rachel Quon (probable) are both battling ankle sprains for the Red Stars.