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Sports Saturday

Red Stars’ offense shows its explosive side

Colaprico said the offense is clicking at the right time. With two games left in the Fall Series, she expects the Red Stars’ attack to shine again.

Bryan Byerly/

The Red Stars finally saw the pieces of their offense come together in a 4-1 victory Sunday against Sky Blue, and it was cathartic.

All summer, the storyline the Red Stars couldn’t escape was how dominant their offense should be, especially after they struggled to score during the NWSL’s Challenge Cup. The offseason moves that brought Kealia Watt and Rachel Hill to the Red Stars had fans awaiting a game that proved the team’s power in the attack was still there, even without Sam Kerr.

Sunday was that game.

‘‘We’ve all been waiting for that kind of moment and that game to happen,’’ midfielder Danielle Colaprico said. ‘‘It’s crazy because you watch Kealia [Watt] in training, and she scores some crazy, ridiculous goals. We were just waiting for it to play out in a game.’’

Three Red Stars scored against Sky Blue, with Watt finishing with two goals and an assist. She was named Woman of the Match, then Woman of the Week for her performance.

Colaprico said the offense is clicking at the right time. With two games left in the Fall Series, she expects the Red Stars’ attack to shine again.

‘‘Having an explosive offensive game definitely helps,’’ said defender Zoey Goralski, who also scored against Sky Blue. ‘‘It provides our team with confidence and shows us what we’re doing is working. At the same time, each game is different.’’

The Red Stars’ game Saturday against the Washington Spirit will be the third matchup between the teams this season. The Spirit won the first two 2-1.

The Red Stars struggled with connecting through balls against the Spirit in the first game of the Fall Series. Colaprico said there were times the midfielders and forwards weren’t on the same page.

It was important for the Red Stars to work out some of those kinks against Sky Blue and shift the focus in training from their attack to sharpening up on defense.

‘‘Staying defensively compact is going to be a huge part of the next game,’’ Goralski said. ‘‘Washington has a lot of offensive players who can stretch us.’’

The Red Stars not only have had to fill the void on the back line that was left when Julie Ertz opted out of the Fall Series, but other players have had to step up as vocal leaders.

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo have been in captain roles before, so taking on leadership positions was nothing new to them.

The strength of the back line, meanwhile, has remained intact, with strong performances from rookie defenders whom Goralski said have really stepped up.

The NWSL has seen a handful of its top talent sign contracts overseas, most notably World Cup champions Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Tobin Heath and Christen Press.

It’s no surprise four of the brightest stars in U.S. women’s soccer pursued opportunities outside the country, given that training and game reps are limited here. It’s critical for players to stay sharp with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics rescheduled for next summer.

The Red Stars have several players out on loan, but they haven’t lost any of their U.S. women’s national team players to overseas opportunities, which speaks to the culture that has been established on the squad.

‘‘It’s a real testament to our training environment,’’ Goralski said. ‘‘People want to stay here and get good training. It shows every practice is a hard practice and that people will get better here. We have a really good team environment and team dynamic, and I think it helps a lot [in terms of] retaining players.’’