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Red Stars still searching for identity after four regular-season matches

Through their first four matches of the season, the Red Stars have earned four points in the NWSL standings after one win, one draw and two losses.

Chicago Red Stars v Houston Dash
Mallory Pugh #9 of Chicago Red Stars celebrates her goal with Danielle Colaprico #24 and Sarah Woldmoe #16 during the first half against the Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium on May 29, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Red Stars are still working to establish their identity after the first two weeks of the season.

Coming in, the expectations were high for this deep roster of high-caliber players, but with the additions came the challenge to tap into all the ways this team could be successful.

Unlike Red Stars teams of the past, there is no single player who can take over matches, and there is no single way they can exploit teams.

“We haven’t had a team that’s had this many ways of playing,” midfielder Danny Colaprico said. “It’s a bit more challenging, especially in the beginning of the season. We’re trying to figure out how we put the right players together.”

Through their first four matches of the season, the Red Stars have earned four points in the NWSL standings after one win, one draw and two losses.

Their late loss to the Houston Dash came off a goal by Kristie Mewis from a set-piece in the 83rd minute.

Colaprico stressed the importance of putting together a full 90 minutes. She said they haven’t been able to do that all season.

Coming into the regular season, the team spoke about how the first few matches will set the tone for their accomplishments in the fall. They’ve shifted from that mentality after suffering two losses, including a 5-0 loss to the Portland Thorns in the season opener.

The players understand it’s a long season, and if they can establish their identity as a team that can exploit its opponents in a multitude of ways, it will pay off.

Through four Challenge Cup games, the Red Stars scored just three goals and have matched that offensive production through the first four games of the regular season.

The focus is on building momentum because they believe that once they tap into their true scoring potential, they won’t find themselves desperate for goals late in games.

“We’ve got into a lot of dangerous areas and created a lot of chances,” Colaprico said. “Once those start coming, those minor lapses won’t matter. We’ve created a lot more chances than most of our opponents.”

The Red Stars rank fifth in shots taken with 35 and fourth in shots on goal with 18. Defensively they’ve allowed 16 shots on goal, 10 of which came in their loss to the Thorns.

Against the Dash last Saturday, they gave up eight shots, including three on goal. The Red Stars head into their match against the North Carolina Courage coming off of three games in one week. Their game in transition will be critical in getting a win. They have no shortage of players who can transition down the field quickly.

Mallory Pugh has shown her obvious ability to break lines on the dribble in the Red Stars’ previous two matches, while Kealia Watt has displayed her ability to threaten teams coming in behind defenders.

“This has been the best team I’ve been a part of in terms of transition,” defender Kayla Sharples said. “I think that’s something that can be a big part of our identity.”