The fifth week of the 2013 NWSL season will test the athleticism of both Sky Blue FC and the Chicago Red Stars as they are scheduled to play two matches respectively. Sky Blue will host Chicago on Wednesday and Seattle on Saturday before Chicago hosts Portland on Sunday to round out the week. If Chicago and Sky Blue's head coach's Rory Dames and Jim Gabarra want to pull out a win this week they will need to play smart and rest their star performers at some point in either match.
Chicago have endured a challenging NWSL campaign with two losses and a draw while also suffering from injuries to Shannon Boxx and Taryn Hemmings. Hemmings may have recovered from her minor hamstring strain to play this Wednesday. However, Boxx has been provided with a 4-6 week estimate pending results of the procedure.
Concentrating on Chicago's weak back line might be Sky Blue's best opportunity to find another win. Last week's match against Boston exposed the poor structural integrity of Chicago's defense, with only Erin McLeod and Lydia Vandenbergh putting up good blocks. However, when it mattered most the back line could not shut down Sydney Leroux who scored a hat trick. Michelle Wenino was slow to react to Leroux's speed which cost Chicago the game. Wenino and Rachel Quon need to be attentive as Kelley O'Hara, Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord and Katy Freels are exceptionally fast athletes with good control of the ball.
If Chicago has done their homework, then they will appreciate the threat that Sophie Schmidt poses. Schmidt has impeccable timing and can sneak up between the midfield and defense to finish off attacks. O'Hara, on the other hand, is creative on the ball but has found a wall standing in her way as she is the main target for most opponent defenders. O'Hara and De Vanna work well together and create promising attacks but are broken up when they spend too much time on the ball.
O'Hara needs to get the most out of the touches she does get because if she spends too much time finding a convenient spot on the field, she is sure to be dispossessed by Leslie Osborne or Alyssa Mautz. Osborne is a player to look out for this week despite being restrained in the midfield last week with few touches on the ball, unable to assert her dominance and create strong crosses.
Christie Rampone was off her game last week. She will need to concentrate on the placement of her feet so that Zakiya Bywaters, a responsive forward, will not sneak up on her to steal the ball within the box. As for Foord, she will have a handful with Ella Masar and Lori Chalupny charging down the flanks.
Chicago enters the match with a 0-2-1 record, while Sky Blue has dropped to the fourth slot with a 2-1-0 record.
Sky Blue Injuries
Out: Jill Loyden (wrist). In doubt: Brittany Bock (broken rib).
Chicago Red Stars Injuries
OUT: Shannon Boxx (knee), Amy LePeilbet (knee), Lindsay Tarpley (knee), Inka Grings (joining squad in May), Sonja Fuss (joining squad in May), Jen Hoy (joining squad in June). In doubt: Taryn Hemmings (hamstring strain).
Match Date/Time: Wednesday May 8, 7:00 pm EDT
Venue: Yurcak Field Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
Online: NWSLSoccer YouTube Channel