The Chicago Red Stars Playoff Crisis: Defense Can’t Win Championships

As the NWSL season reaches the quarter stretch, North Carolina and Portland have already clinched their berths in the playoffs. The Courage continue to entertain like the Flash as their defense became the best in the league. Portland has been their usual disciplined selves despite a team in Europe tampering with one of their roses.

The Chicago Red Stars Playoff Crisis: Defense Can’t Win Championships

The Chicago Red Stars should have clinched a playoff spot by now. The only club with no international players, they were just as dominant as the Courage and Thorns last season. Every team below Chicago, except Orlando for now, is capable of pushing the Red Stars out of the top four.

The league has grown from infant teams to kids who are now socializing. The kids saw North Carolina’s new attacking style and they want their own. Portland is the only team turning their noses up.

Chicago had to be more offensive to ease the pressure off of their reliable defense. The Red Stars do look impressive when they’re on the attack, but they’re not scoring enough. Boston can take the final playoff spot away from Chicago this weekend.

Chicago only scored three goals in four games. Ninth place FC Kansas City and tenth place Orlando scored the same amount. The Red Stars defense has the squad hovering in the two playoff spots available.

The Windy City’s grind-it-out method last season should have produced a complete team by now. Christen Press is getting quality shots yet Julie Ertz leads the Red Stars in goals. Can Press handle the pressure of making Chicago a title contending team, not just a one-dimensional, defensive regular season success story?

Chicago’s defense is even more formidable. With the emergence of Casey Short along with fellow United States National Team members Julie Ertz and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the Red Stars’ defense remains one of the best of the league. The offense is benefiting of off the attacking abilities of Short and Ertz’s scoring touch.

The Red Star’s grinding method may well keep the team alive for a playoff berth this season. It would be a failure if just getting into the playoffs was a success for Chicago. It would be patronizing to constantly patting  Christen Press on the back for trying instead of applying the necessary pressure to step up her game.

It’s fair to question Press’ nerves in crucial situations since her glaring miss in the dying moments of last year’s semi-final. Boston can be too rough of a team as they lead the league in yellow cards. A free kick or penalty can give Christen her first deposit in her goal account.

The NWSL teams went from crawling, to walking, to running end to end this season. Chicago can run. The Red Stars just can’t keep up with the league’s new trend of fun and gun. If Christen Press starts scoring to join in on the fun, Chicago can enjoy the top four party along with North Carolina and Portland.