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NWSL (Mid)Week 6 preview: Battle of the midfields in Chicago

It’s time for yet another midweek game in Chicago. The second-place Red Stars host sixth-place Orlando in the first of a three-game road trip for the Pride. Marta is back, but so is Sam Kerr, while Julie Ertz is once again out with injury, but Alanna Kennedy has returned to her midfield. Both teams are coming off a draw and look to rebound with a win as we begin NWSL Week 6.

Colaprico to run Red Stars midfield again

Orlando Pride (1-2-2) at Chicago Red Stars (2-1-3)
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. EDT, Toyota Park
All-time series: Red Stars lead, 4-0-1

In a point brought up by my colleague Dan Lauletta after last week’s Red Stars’ game, one of the biggest issues Rory Dames faces right now is how to reintegrate Ertz while continuing to get the best out of Danielle Colaprico. Both were named to the Second XI last season (in fact Colaprico has made the Second XI every season since her 2015 debut), which is somewhat surprising considering that while Ertz made an immediate difference upon her insertion into the midfield, Colaprico had a quiet, diminished season as she was pushed out wide. So far this year, Colaprico has been running things for the Red Stars. If they can figure out how to work together in their new 4-3-3 formation, which gives attackers more fluidity and freedom than the diamond midfield that Dames previously preferred, they’ll keep Chicago’s midfield amongst the league’s best. Unfortunately for Dames and the Red Stars, that will have to wait, as Ertz was a late addition to Chicago’s injury list ahead of Wednesday night’s clash.

  • PRIDE INJURIES:  OUT — Camila; QUE — Ashlyn Harris, Alex Morgan
  • RED STARS INJURIES:  OUT — Vanessa DiBernardo, Julie Ertz, Stephanie McCaffrey, Casey Short, Rosie White

Ertz’s absence may just have made Orlando’s job easier. No matter who the opponent has been this year, their attack has been disappointing. Touted during preseason as the most lethal offense on paper, Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan haven’t lived up to billing. Leroux has five shots on target without a goal this year and didn’t manage a single shot at all against Seattle, although her defensive work was solid, while Morgan had a slightly better night with four chances created. Chioma Ubogagu led the offense while Marta was away, scoring two goals, but for all that she did well, she also missed numerous solid opportunities to set up a teammate when she chose to dribble instead of pass. And for the Pride offense to have a chance to redeem itself, their midfield, led by Kennedy, will have to get past some combination including Colaprico and Nikki Stanton.

HOT … OR NOT

Hot

Ali Krieger: Returning at right back, Krieger did a very good job at keeping Steph Catley from making a big impact.
Alyssa Mautz: The oft-inconsistent striker is now tied for second place (along with Crystal Dunn and Francisca Ordega) with three goals, just one shy of league leader Christine Sinclair.

Not

Alyssa Naeher’s distribution: Once the best part of her game, Naeher has regressed in this area, booting it out of bounds with regularity.
Alanna Kennedy’s passing: Not quite on the same page as her teammates just yet, Kennedy had the lowest passing accuracy of any Pride player who played more than 16 minutes.

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