Asked about how the Chicago Red Stars would deal with the Portland Thorns this weekend, head coach Rory Dames said, “We might just defend 30 yards from our goal and let them have the other 70 or 80.”
Dames may have been joking about tactics for Sunday’s match against the Thorns, but he is keenly aware of the level of talent on the Thorns roster. That talent made itself evident two weeks ago when the Thorns knocked off the Red Stars 2-0 in their first visit to Benedictine University Sports Complex.
“We were 0-0 with them in the 70th minute last time and made a bad mistake to concede,” Dames said of that match. “So I don’t think we’re intimidated by them. But they have some luxuries we don’t have. We have to build an attack and sustain pressure in the other team’s end. They have a player or two who can do something special and turn a game.”
The Red Stars have two draws and two losses from four matches and have yet to hold a lead during a match. But they insist there is no frustration at their early inability to capture points.
“We’ve been in every game,” Dames said. “We don’t have a lot of players on our team that have played in the previous league. So we don’t have Leroux or O’Hara or Morgan or any of the attacking players out of the U.S. allocation. So our margin for error in the back is small. We’re going to have a hard time chasing games down.
“I’m not discouraged that we haven’t won a game because we’re still finding our way.”
One player that did play in the last league is midfielder Lori Chalupny. The former U.S. staple had a hand in the club’s first two goals and last week played an exceptional, two-way match in a 1-1 draw away to Sky Blue FC. Chalupny though, is taking a lot of fouls as usual, which prompted Dames to drop her out of the middle during the Sky Blue match.
“She’s been getting beat up in the middle of the field so we were able to move her into some different spots and give her some more freedom,” Dames said.
Wherever Chalupny lines up against the Thorns she will be presented with a difficult matchup. Becky Edwards is a top defensive midfielder, and if Chalupny drops off on the flank she could see some combination of Allie Long, Angie Kerr, and Danielle Foxhoven. Christine Sinclair has been figuring out a way to be near the ball wherever the Thorns line her up.
The Thorns are undefeated in four matches (3-0-1) but Dames and the Red Stars are embracing the challenge, even if they may wind up doing so on tired legs.
“The fact that we’ve seen them already and know we can play with them I think is good. The fact that we’re going to be in our third game in eight days and they’ve had seven days off probably is going to work against us. But that’s the way the schedule works and later on it will balance out in our favor.”
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