Red Stars playoff fate is in their own hands Sunday

CHICAGO – It was an unusual situation that the club was facing as they approached their final NWSL contest of the 2022 season this week.

Thanks to how the standings played out, there were going to need help to qualify for their seventh-straight playoff berth – and all that they would need would happen before they’d even step on the pitch.

In order to make the postseason, the Red Stars had to have a either a loss or tie by North Carolina or have Houston lose by two or more goals. If one of those scenarios failed to play out, they’d only be facing Angel City FC for pride in their season finale on Sunday at SeatGeek Stadium.

Indeed, one of those scenarios worked out, as the Courage played to a scoreless draw against San Diego Wave FC. So the possibly complicated road to the playoffs is now very simple: Win and they’re in.

But even before they even knew that they controlled their own playoff fate, the club was trying to keep the focus on themselves, and not focusing as much on what they couldn’t control.

“There are things that we cannot control so honestly, we can’t really focus too much on that because if we get caught up in that we’re not going to be focused on what we need to do on Sunday, and we need three points,” said defender Arin Wright on Thursday. “End of the line, that’s it, we need to get three points. I think everyone is on that same wavelength and I think everyone wants to see ourselves to post-season.”

This will be the second meeting between the clubs this year, with Angel City FC winning the first 1-0 on August 14th. As they have done all year, the Red Stars will be shorthanded, playing without Bianca St.-Georges (suspension) and Zoe Morse (yellow card accumulation suspension).

That’s been nothing new for the club who has dealt with plenty of injuries and national team call-ups most of the season, perhaps preparing them for this must-win moment.

“Every week it’s been who’s in and who’s out, who can play, who can’t play, who’s away, who’s home, all of these things have come up every week. It’s been every week,” said manager Chris Petrucelli. “So, this is no different than any other week as far as availability goes.”

According to Wright, it can be motivation as the club goes for a seventh-straight berth in the NWSL playoffs.

“I think everyone looks at those two red cards as kind of a blow, but from an athlete standpoint when you think all bets are against you that’s kind of when you rise to the occasion,” said Wright. “I think the mentality of everyone is fighting for those people who can’t be on the field but also to prove how deep our line is and to show what we can do with all the players that we have on our bench.”

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