Match Preview: OL Reign vs. Chicago Red Stars
2020 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret – Quarterfinal Round
OL Reign vs Chicago Red Stars
Zions Bank Stadium. Herriman, UT
July 18 at 9:00 PM CT
CHICAGO – The Chicago Red Stars begin their knockout stage in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret when they face OL Reign on Saturday, July 18 at 9:00 p.m. CT.
Previous Result: Casey Short scored the game-winning goal in the 85th minute as the Red Stars defeated the Utah Royals FC 1-0 in their final NWSL Challenge Cup preliminary match.
Opponent: OL Reign played Portland Thorns FC to a scoreless draw in their previous game on Monday, July 13. With five points, the Reign finished third in the Challenge Cup Preliminary Round standings.
Key Acquisitions: The Red Stars face a rebranded OL Reign team that saw several changes in management and player personnel. Formerly known as Reign FC last season, the Washington state-based team was acquired by the OL Groupe which prompted the name change.
OL Reign would also see the departure of 2019 NWSL Coach of the Year Vlatko Andonovski as he took over the same position for the US Women’s National Team, appointing former PSG head coach Farid Benstiti as the club’s third head coach during the offseason.
OL Reign would also see themselves busy in the trade market, acquiring the rights to Julia Ashley from Sky Blue FC, Dani Weatherholt from Orlando Pride, and Amber Brooks along with former Red Star Sofia Huerta from the Houston Dash. In the 2020 NWSL Draft, OL Reign selected Kelcie Hedge with the eighth overall pick followed by Sam Hiatt and Meg Brandt with picks 33 and 34. OL Reign would also sign Costa Rican international Shirley Cruz, Japanese international Yuka Momiki, Adrienne Jordan from England’s WSL, and acquire defender Alana Cook on loan from PSG.
Playoff Pedigree: Saturday night’s matchup will be the first time the Red Stars and OL Reign face each other in a knockout match, despite both teams being mainstays in past postseasons. OL Reign has made the playoffs four previous times, including back-to-back appearances in the NWSL Championship in 2014- 2015 and appearances in the semifinals the last two seasons, which is the league’s third-highest amount of team playoff appearances. The Red Stars, prior to this year, appeared in the playoffs five times for the league’s second-highest playoff appearances. Chicago’s playoff appearances have come consecutively in each of the last five seasons, including their first appearance in the NWSL Championship last season.
Late Game Mentality: The Red Stars and OL Reign both earned their respective victories in the NWSL Challenge Cup preliminary round with late-game goals, both coming from headers to secure wins against the same opponent. OL Reign earned their first NWSL Challenge Cup win in their third preliminary matchup against Utah Royals FC on July 8th after defending 2019 Rookie of the Year, Bethany Balcer, scored 37 seconds into stoppage time in the second half from a Yuka Momiki cross. The Red Stars’ 1-0 victory against Utah — which happened in the same fashion — came in the 85th minute. With the game scoreless, Savannah McCaskill whipped in a cross that connected with Casey Short, who’s headed goal provided the late heroics for Chicago.
#PassItOnCRS: In addition to kicking off team sports in North America, Chicago players are making a positive impact off the pitch as well. Defender Sarah Gorden pledged to donate $5 for every one of her completed passes during last Sunday night’s match to Get Yo Mind Right CHI, a mental health initiative by Healthy Hood Chicago. As a result of her donation, as well as the donations of several teammates, coaches, front office staff members, and fans, it was announced on Wednesday that a total of $15,700 was donated to the mental health program following last Sunday night’s game.
Young Guns: Saturday night features two rosters with notable names from the Class of 2019. OL Reign comes into the match with the reigning Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer, whom they signed with a supplemental contract following the conclusion of the 2019 draft. The Red Stars have a roster with last season’s top overall pick Tierna Davidson, along with fellow defenders Bianca St. Georges (20th overall), Kayla Sharples (26th overall) and Hannah Davison (33rd overall).