Chicago Red Stars hold their own, but can’t top reigning NWSL champion Courage

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HERRIMAN, UT – JULY 05: Julie Ertz #8 of Chicago Red Stars fights for the ball with Lynn Williams #9 of North Carolina Courage during a game on day 5 of the NWSL Challenge Cup at Zions Bank Stadium on July 5, 2020 in Herriman, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

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HERRIMAN, UT. – With the leading scorer from the entire National Womens Soccer League gone and a few new players in place, there is going to be an adjustment period for the 2020 Chicago Red Stars.

Hence Rory Dames’ has used a few different lineups in the first three games of the NWSL Challenge Cup as he gets a sense for the roster as the knockout round of the tournament approaches. Sunday figured to be the team’s greatest challenge, as they faced reigning league champion North Carolina Courage.

Since beating the Red Stars in the NWSL Championship last October, the team had not missed a beat, winning their first two games of the challenge. Getting points against the established Courage, even if just one, would have been a achievement for Dames’ team.

On Sunday afternoon at Zions Bank Stadium, they came awfully close to making that happen.

With a majority of their first team in the lineup, the Red Stars were locked in a scoreless match with the Courage, holding their own on defense through 80 minutes. It was just after that when North Carolina broke through, using a header from Abby Erceg for the winning goal in a 1-0 defeat for Chicago.

It was the only one of the Courage’s 15 shots that got past Alyssa Naeher in the Red Stars’ goal, with the veteran keeper making four saves on the game. Julie Ertz anchored the team’s strong defense with six tackles and clearances in the match.

Once again, however, the Red Stars weren’t able to find the back of the net. In the three games in the tournament, they’ve netted just a single goal, which came in a 2-1 tournament-opening loss to the Washington Spirit. This figured to be one of the key issues for the club in 2020, considering the loss of NWSL leading goal scorer Sam Kerr, who now plays for Chelsea.

Utah Royals FC awaits the Red Stars in the final game of the preliminary round of the tournament on Sunday at 9 PM.

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