Saturday’s match against Kansas City was a must-win if they wanted a chance at the playoffs.The Chicago Red Stars faced an uphill battle from the moment the team’s injury report went live. If they were going to win, it would have to be without two pillars of their backline corps: Tierna Davidson and Casey Kruger.
For a moment, it seemed the Red Stars might pull off another spectacular upset through sheer will. After falling behind 1-0, a chaotic scramble in front of the Kansas City goal put the ball at Kayla Sharples’ feet. She buried the opportunity to net her first goal of the season.
Just two minutes later, Kansas City took the lead on a Lo’eau LaBonta run through the box. Ten minutes later, KC rookie Alexa Spaanstra scored her first goal to widen the lead.
It seemed the Chicago Red Stars would be going into the halftime break facing a two-goal deficit, but a moment of miscommunication and a misstep from AD Franch caused an own-goal, putting the Red Stars within one.
The goal-fest continued in the second half. Debinha slipped a shot past Alyssa Naeher to extend the lead 4-2, but Chicago’s Bianca St. Georges narrowed the gap after burying a rebound on frame.
In stoppage time, the KC Current pulled away with goals from Cece Kizer and Mimmi Larsson, sealing the victory for Kansas City, and Chicago’s fate for the season.
“Obviously officially being eliminated tonight is sad and disappointing. But to be in it this long considering the things we’ve been through as a club and facing adversity and kind of hanging in there and sticking together we should be proud of that, for sure.” Midfielder Cari Roccaro reflected post-match.
The six goals allowed were the most surrendered this season by Chicago. Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger were sorely missed when KC Current players dribbled through the box unbothered.
“I think we were a bit timid. Obviously our lineup changed and any time that happens, there’s a bit of a shakeup.” Defender Arin Wright said post match. “We had not been beaten… and I think had we not had so many missing pieces, and having to move so many pieces, that would’ve continued. We were building.”
Changes in the lineup called on Chicago’s young players to perform under pressure. “I think they came in and did their best. I’m very proud of this group and how they’ve grown over the season, and I think it’ll be really bright next year.” Wright lauded the young group. She added “After the game.. it was the young ones coming up to us saying ‘it’s next year. We’ve got next year, it’s gonna happen for us.”
Coach Chris Petrucelli was relieved of his coaching duties on Tuesday. Assistant Coach Ella Masar will take the reins for the season finale. A source familiar with the events revealed that new team owner Laura Ricketts personally broke the news to the players.
The Chicago Red Stars play their final game this season against OL Reign on the NWSL’s first-ever Decision Day lineup. All six games will kick off at 5PM Eastern on Paramount+, and a whiparound show following all six matches will air on CBS Sports Network.