Chances are if you follow the Chicago Red Stars and are reading this after watching the last home loss against Kansas City, you’re about FourFive seconds from wildin’. Or if you’re ever the optimist, you’re possibly looking forward to the playoff positioning race.
Whichever, here are some words to either help lift you up about of the abyss of a 3-game losing streak you didn’t think was possible, or to help you look ahead to possible brighter days for Summertime Chi.
Why You Should Be Freaking Out
Let’s be real. You are. At least a little bit. The team with the shaky slow start this season went on a tear and made you feel invincible, and now? They’re having a pretty rough August. Some injuries have come up, along with a 3-game losing streak. All losses coming at home in Toyota Park. The Red Stars are 1-3-1 in their last five games, with five games remaining in the season. While their last three losses might have some positives, it was the fashion in which they lost that probably have you most concerned.
“Down 2 goals in the first 10 minutes against Portland?!”
“Colaprico got her hair pulled?!”
“Blow the lead by 2 goals in the last 2 minutes against Seattle?!”
“What is defense?!”
I get it. But so does Christen Press. The season is winding down and this is the time where you want to build on your games down the stretch. No one knows that better than the Red Stars captain, and she spoke briefly about the disappointing stretch of games and the importance of having a playoff mentality into the playoffs and potentially beyond:
“That was really disappointing, obviously. We’ve dropped three games at home. I think that as a team, emotionally, we’ve been through a lot trying to pick ourselves back up and understand what’s going on. It just keeps seeming to slip through the cracks and that’s disappointing. But as an athlete and a soccer player you kind of just have to grind through these hard times and it’s so important to just stay present and not think about the past and not think about the fact that it’s three games or if we’re down, and just keep doing what we’re doing because we have a great team. I think that we have a really good chance at winning the championship. It’s hard to see in moments like this but I think we’ll continue to believe in ourselves and will our way there.”
This season the Red Stars have put together an impressive run of undefeated games at home in Toyota Park. While many thought a 3-match homestead would go in favor of Chicago, the Red Stars find themselves having to try to pick their game up on the road against Washington Spirit. With one regular season home game left, Press understands the importance of a home field advantage and its significance to fans. When asked about what the team could do to get back on track she says:
“Just a little more pride in playing here. We only have one game left so we’re going to have to take a lot of pride in winning away as well. I think the fans have been fantastic. They always have our back through thick and thin. So, thanks to them. And we promise we’re going to defend our house to the best of our abilities, and [through] every game.”
Julie Ertz echoed similar sentiments when she expressed the importance of playing for points and for pride down the stretch, saying:
“To drop 9 points at home, it’s where we need to take more pride in home games. We only have one more home game, so it’s super frustrating, but I think it’s really one thing [finishing] we need to focus on fixing.”
Why You Shouldn’t Be Freaking Out
It’s going to be hard to feel any kind of Jedi Force type of Zen after these three games. But here is some perspective.
No matter what happened over the course of the last three games, Chicago is still in third place. Even if they stay in a close race with Orlando for the third and fourth seed, they hold a tie-breaker over Orlando in their head-to-head series this season with two wins over the Pride. 3 points currently separate the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th seeds, where Seattle (5th) and Sky Blue (6th) currently sit. Chicago holds series head-to-head tie-breakers over both Orlando and Sky Blue.
There are worse situations to be in, like not being in contention at all. Don’t get it twisted, down the stretch Chicago can either be its own worst enemy, or its best homegirl. Truth is, their fate is entirely in their hands.
Julie Ertz expressed as much discussing the importance of the final five games of the season saying: “We’re not far off, we’re still in our playoff hunt, which is excellent. But you know what? It kind of comes down to us. These are big games to lose.” Ertz also knows the team is capable of pushing through, simply saying: “At this point, it’s kind of do or die … At the end of the day we need a win, and we need three points. So that’s got to be our main focus.”
Christen Press elaborated on the importance of not losing focus on the ultimate goal at hand, bringing a championship back to Chicago. Press is preaching the importance of entering their potential playoff destiny with a winning mindset, period. When asked about the narrative of playoff seeding versus just getting into the semi-finals, she says:
“I don’t think either. So, in past years I’ve felt like our team around this time starts worrying about getting into the playoffs. And at this point my concern as a leader on the team is more just about the feeling going into the playoffs. We have five games left and if we play five great games then that will be a great way to go into a semifinal. So, it’s not really about taking points, we obviously need the points, but for me, it’s about preparing ourselves for that semifinal. Because if we can’t get a cushion enough to prepare for a semifinal, and we fail again? That’s not something i think this team is interested in. So, it’s no longer about the glory of getting to the playoffs. It’s about winning.”
Despite the losses, this season Chicago has been a team that can still surprise you, even with five games left. Press believes the team can lock in, and get back to the mission at hand, saying:
“We have five games now. We’re going to learn our lessons from the last three games. We’re going to have to go [away] and we’re going to have to win games on the road, which is exactly what we’re going to have to do if we go to a final. I think we’re going to have to emotionally, physically, mentally – everything – to turn this around so that the last five games we go into October feeling like we can win.”