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NWSL Week 18 Preview: Is McCaskill the answer to Sky Blue’s woes?

Savannah McCaskill could be key if Sky Blue are to finally get a win (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

Hold up, isn’t the NWSL on an international break? Yes, that’s true, but sometimes the NWSL stops for no woman, and we have one game this weekend between fifth-place Chicago and ninth-place Sky Blue.

Sky Blue FC (0-13-3) at Chicago Red Stars (7-4-7)
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EDT, Toyota Park
All-time series: Red Stars lead, 6-0-8

Soccer can be a game of inches, and if a few more inches had gone Sky Blue’s way last weekend, they might have gotten their first win, or at least a result. They hit the woodwork twice in their 1-2 loss to Portland, controlling the match for large stretches after two early defensive errors gave Portland a lead. Some of their resurgence back into the game has to lay at the feet of Savannah McCaskill, playing in the ten spot in place of the absent Carli Lloyd. McCaskill started out the season strong, scoring three goals and picking up two assists, and there were signs of a promising partnership with Lloyd. However, the rookie fell off as of late, struggling with the week in and week out grind of professional soccer, as rookies tend to do, and she had USWNT duty on top of that. Last week saw a return of McCaskill’s form as she pulled the strings in the attack and worked well with Shea Groom. If they can combine well again and take some possession away from Chicago’s midfield, they should put the pressure on fellow rookie Emily Boyd, filling in for Alyssa Naeher. There is a question of what to do with Lloyd if McCaskill continues in that role, but that’s a question for another day.

  • Sky Blue injuries: OUT – none; QUE – Imani Dorsey, Jen Hoy; INT – Katie Johnson, Carli Lloyd
  • Red Stars injuries: OUT – Stephanie McCaffrey; INT – Morgan Brian, Julie Ertz, Sam Kerr, Alyssa Naeher, Casey Short

That said, McCaskill as center attacking midfielder doesn’t do much to directly help Sky Blue’s bigger problem, their defense, although increased possession and minutes in their attacking half will take the pressure off any backline. They pulled it together after dropping those two early goals to Portland, holding the Thorns at bay for the remainder of the match with a bit of last-ditch defending, but the damage had already been done. Denise Reddy shook things up by giving Caroline Casey her first action of the season in goal, but she looked neither better nor worse than Kailen Sheridan. Even without Sam Kerr, Chicago can still be very dangerous, so the defense will have to pull themselves together and find more organization and discipline than they’ve shown so far.

HOT … OR NOT?

Hot

Imani Dorsey: Her late arrival on scene may knock her out of the Rookie of the Year race, but she should at least be in the discussion. Her second goal in three games (her first was against Chicago the last time these teams played) helped pull Sky Blue back into the game.
Raquel Rodriguez: The midfielder made a case for more playing time when she subbed into the game late and nearly helped equalize within a minute.
Vanessa DiBernardo: Watching her play makes her long absence seem like a distant memory already.

Not

The post: It’s hard not to root for a team to win after so long, and the woodwork felt particularly cruel to deny Sky Blue twice.

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