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Red Stars looking for first Challenge Cup win

The Red Stars welcome back national-team players Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz and Tierna Davidson for Wednesday’s game against Kansas City at 5:30 p.m. at SeatGeek Stadium.

Chicago Red Stars defender Kayla Sharples (28) will be back in the lineup for the team Wednesday after missing the last match due to Covid-19 protocol.
AP Photos

The Red Stars will be looking for their first Challenge Cup victory when they face Kansas City at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at SeatGeek Stadium, and coach Rory Dames isn’t worried about their ability to get it done.

‘‘I’m not concerned that, when we have everybody and we get going, we won’t be able to score goals,’’ Dames said.

Dames might not be concerned, but the Red Stars (0-1-1) are second-to-last in the Western Division of the Challenge Cup tournament. Making up the point differential to take the No. 1 spot from the Portland Thorns with only two matches left before the final might be a stretch.

The Red Stars, who have gone scoreless in their first two games, are a much different team when their full roster is available. That will be the case Wednesday, aside from Bianca St. Georges and Emily Boyd, who Dames has said won’t be available during the Challenge Cup.

The Red Stars will welcome back U.S. women’s national-team players Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz and Tierna Davidson, who change the fluidity with which they play, their possessions and their urgency.

The team hasn’t had an issue creating chances, but it has struggled with finishing. In their first two matches, the Red Stars have taken 20 shots (seven on goal) and 11 corner kicks. Dames said three of the 20 shots should have resulted in goals.

By comparison, the Red Stars’ defense has allowed one shot on goal, a game-winning goal by the Thorns’ Morgan Weaver last week.

‘‘The group defensively, specifically the backs, have been very good,’’ Dames said.

What the Red Stars will look like during the Tokyo Olympics this summer and how they will score goals during that period are questions they need to answer quickly.

Dames expects to lose Naeher, Ertz, Davidson, Casey Krueger and Mallory Pugh in July. It’s unlikely they all will be part of the 18-player Olympic roster — Krueger and Pugh likely would be alternates — but those are the five Red Stars that Dames expects to be in Tokyo.

Kansas City will be coming off a nearly two-week break after its first match of the tournament against the Thorns. The Red Stars, meanwhile, will be playing on six days of rest, and Dames said the rotation will be important in this one. He said he is hoping to get a longer look at Rachel Hill and Pugh.

‘‘I don’t think we’ve put the most fluid group on the field together yet,’’ Dames said. ‘‘We’re still trying to figure out what fits with what.’’