PORTLAND – Nothing in the world of sports has been normal at all since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020.
But slowly things in the world of sports are starting to creep back to where they were back in 2019 and the early part of last year. That includes the National Women’s Soccer League, which didn’t even have a regular season in 2020 after COVID-19 took hold.
It’s a relief for the Chicago Red Stars and other teams in the league, who haven’t had anything close to normal since the end of their last regular season in the fall of 2019. On Sunday night, a regular season finally begins for the club as they look ahead to the summer and early fall that will feel more like normal.
On Sunday night at 6 PM, the Red Stars face the Portland Thorns at Providence Park to play the first of 24 regular season matches that stretch from now till the end of October. It’s their first regular season game since September 28, 2019 when they defeated Utah Royals FC 2-1 at SeatGeek Stadium..
It will be the first of 12 contests on the road for Rory Dames’ team, with the 12 others being played in Bridgeview. The home opener will be Saturday against NJ/NY Gotham FC, who were previously known as Sky Blue FC.
It’s not the first action for the club this year as they took part in the season-opening NWSL Challenge Cup. In four games they finished 0-2-2, with their last game coming against OL Reign in Tacoma, Washington on April 27th – a 3-2 loss.
Once again, the Red Stars featured a group that consists of a few US Women’s National Team members, four of whom are in the starting lineup for Sunday: Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, forward Mallory Pugh, defender Julie Ertz, and defender Tierna Davidson.
Midfielder Morgan Gautrat, who is also on the national team, is serving a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct stemming from an incident during the last challenge cup match against OL Reign.
It will be a test right off the bat for the Red Stars, who are facing a Portland team that won the Challenge Cup championship on May 8th against NJ/NY Gotham FC. But at least a regular season is underway, ending a long wait for every club in the NWSL.