CHICAGO — For Chicago’s two professional soccer teams, it’s been all about tournaments over the past month.
But now Chicago Fire FC and the Chicago Red Stars are ready to get back to work in the regular season, hoping to keep their campaigns going as long as possible.
Both teams return to regular season play on Sunday, both doing so against teams from Orlando, as each hopes to find a way into their respective postseasons.
Chicago Fire FC played in three games in the Leagues Cup over the past month, getting out of the group stage before losing to Club America on August 4 at SeatGeek Stadium.
Since then, they’ve been off the pitch, getting ready for a critical stretch to their season that could result in an end to their sixth-year MLS Cup Playoff drought.
They enter their match on Sunday at Soldier Field against Orlando City SC with 32 points, which puts them eighth in the Eastern Conference standings. That puts them above the playoff line, with DC United currently holding the ninth and final spot two points behind.
While the club returns with some momentum after winning five of their last six MLS regular season matches, they still have 11 to go before the end of the regular season in late August.
So how did that long break after the last Leagues Cup game affect the club?
“The training has been really sharp, and the guys have had a really excellent attitude, really good
mentality, and working extremely hard,” said Fire manager Frank Klopas. “We understand the importance of every game now in the last 11 matches in the seasons as we are coming into the final phase of play.
“Every match is going to be extremely difficult, and you know, the preparation for us is always
the key, which will give us confidence against a very good Orlando team.”
Since the beginning of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the Chicago Red Stars have played three Challenge Club matches – going 1-1-1. Their last match was on August 5 – a 3-0 win over the Houston Dash at SeatGeek Stadium.
Now the club gets back to work in regular season play on the road on Sunday against the Orlando Pride, with plenty of work to do if they hope to make a run at an eighth-straight playoff appearance.
It will take quite a finish for that to happen for the Red Stars in their final seven matches as they are five points below the playoff line and have to pass six teams to get there.
“With a third of the season left, I believe the mood and the energy in the locker room is still very much positive, and we have a lot of hope and belief. I think that has to be key to making playoffs, and we definitely have a chance,” said Red Stars defender Kayla Sharples. “I think moving forward, getting more of our pieces back together, with national team players and players coming back from injury, we’re finally finding our flow again and connecting.”
They’ll have goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher back Sunday as she returns to the club after the United States Women’s National Team was eliminated from the World Cup in the Round of 16.
This restart of the season also comes as the club is on the verge of getting new ownership, as a group led by Laura Ricketts announced that they’ve agreed in principle to buy the franchise.