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Red Stars show how impactful their depth can be in 2-0 win over Kansas City

Rory Dames said there isn’t a shortage of Red Stars who are capable of being starters in this league. The energy of this group is to play the role you’re assigned.

DANIEL BARTEL/isiphotos.com

Red Stars coach Rory Dames had reminded his players throughout their goal-less start to the regular season that as soon as they break through with one goal, they’ll have no problem scoring.

The Red Stars haven’t struggled creating chances, but Wednesday night in their match against Kansas City, those opportunities turned into goals and a 2-0 victory.

Dames was right. Once you get the ball rolling, it doesn’t stop.

“We have a lot of frontrunners who can score,” Dames said. “It’s just a matter of who is going to step up in each given game and take their chances.”

Dames slightly changed his lineup. He needed to rest some of his starters, including Mallory Pugh, who played her first 90-minute game in two years last Saturday, and he had confidence in the depth on his roster.

Dames said there isn’t a shortage of Red Stars capable of being starters in the NWSL. A positive of this group is its willingness to play assigned roles. As fans saw from Arin Wright on Wednesday, that can mean rotating to the front line.

The starting lineup against Kansas City featured Wright, Mackenzie Doniak and Katie Johnson in the attack. Sarah Woldmoe started in place of Danny Colaprico in the midfield, and the back line looked the same as it did against Gotham FC last Saturday.

Bringing in Kealia Watt and Pugh in the 60th minute proved to be a shrewd decision. Wright, Johnson and Doniak were able to wear down Kansas City’s defense just enough for Watt and Pugh to come in and leave their mark.

Within five minutes of entering the match, Watt scored off a left-foot shot from Pugh’s lead pass. Five minutes later, Doniak got a pass from Pugh on the wing and scored from the center of the box.

“Mal looks like herself,” Watt said. “She’s so great at picking the ball up and running at the line. She adds another weapon to our front line and makes it extremely difficult to defend all of us.”

Pugh’s journey since turning pro in 2017 has not been easy. The Red Stars are the third team she has played for in three years.

Dames said Pugh has been unfairly criticized because of her decision to start her professional career so early, followed by recurring injuries. He said that people forget how young she is and that her best soccer is ahead of her.

“She trusts her body,” Dames said. “She feels she can accelerate, start, stop and can cut. On both those goals, she broke in -transition.”

The team once again opted to have only a few players participate during the national anthem by kneeling while the rest of the team stayed in the locker room in support of Casey Kreuger.

Watt said this will be how the anthem is handled throughout the season after the NWSL used footage of Kreuger sharing a deeply emotional moment with teammate Julie Ertz in a promotion video.

The Red Stars play the Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium on Saturday. It’s the team’s first trip there since its opening match of the Challenge Cup, in which Sarah Gorden alleged she and her boyfriend were racially profiled by a security guard. The league’s investigation lasted about three weeks, and no disciplinary action was taken.