The Red Stars have the week off thanks to the June international window, and it’s been something of a quiet period for the team. However, they have four players in action in international duty, and a bit of team news themselves, so here’s a bit of a round-up as we get ready to see the Red Stars again against Gotham on July 2
Mal Pugh starts, USWNT defeats Colombia 3-0
Mallory Pugh got the start on Saturday for the U.S. women’s national team, as they went on to defeat Colombia 3-0 in the first of their two tune-up friendlies before World Cup qualifying. With the win, the USA extended its home unbeaten streak to 68 games which includes 61 wins and seven draws.
Pugh sat in her traditional role with the national team as a left winger, and had a few nice chances in front of goal in the first half, most notably a shot off a nice pass from Sophia Smith that she really should have sunk had she let the ball hit her left foot. She instead went to strike with her natural right foot, and sent the ball wide.
Outside of that chance, it was an afternoon of frustration for Pugh in her home state of Colorado. She’s a player who has had to deal with physicality in the NWSL this year, but that kind of play ramps up even more on the international level. She let herself get heated more than once, and her night was perhaps most illustrated by an odd collision with the U.S. team photographer, and a bit of shoving on the outside of the box as she awaited the taking of a penalty kick by her teammate.
Alyssa Naeher did not play in the first game of the friendly series, but don’t be surprised if she gets extended minutes this evening in game two.
Bianca St-Georges makes Canada WCQ team
After a meniscus injury forced her out of Canada’s plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a rocky club season in 2021, Bianca St-Georges is back in the national team’s long-term plans off the strength of a very good start to the year. After making the provisional and camp rosters prior to a final 23-player World Cup qualifying squad, St-Georges was confirmed to be going with Canada to Monterrey for the Concacaf W Championship.
Canada head coach Bev Priestman told reporter Harjeet Johal on St-George, “She’s had an outstanding season in the NWSL. She excites me, I think that’s the important thing. She’s got an incredible mindset, she’s powerful, difficult to beat, and I think she’ll fit in our system really well. Yeah, over the moon for her.”
St-Georges did not play in Canada’s final tune-up friendly before the tournament, a 0-0 draw against South Korea.
Ava Cook scores for the U-23’s
The USWNT U-23 squad traveled to Sweden during the international break, to play in a three-nations friendly tournament with the host country and India.
In their first match, their first ever against India at the youth level, Chicago’s Ava Cook would score the final goal of the game in the 86th minute, as the team went on to a 4-1 win. She was the only player on the roster currently on an NWSL team to make the scoresheet.
Chicago announces new assistant coach
The Red Stars made a little bit of news of their own this week, announcing the hiring of Morinao Imaizumi as a full-time assistant coach. After the departure of Julianne Sitch to become head coach of the men’s program at University of Chicago, the Red Stars had been short in their technical staffing (anecdotally, media could see the equipment managers helping with warm-ups on gameday).
Imaizumi has experience with Yuki Nagasato as the assistant coach of the Nadeshiko in 2004, during the team’s Olympic campaign that year. He also has worked with Casey Krueger as an assistant coach at Florida State University during her time there.
Imaizumi actually joins the Red Stars from his second stint under Mark Krikorian at FSU, where he was on staff for the team’s 2018 and 2021 National Championships. Krikorian also recently left the program, citing differences in vision with the school’s new athletic director over support for the women’s soccer team. Krikorian was recently announced as the new President of Soccer Operations for the Washington Spirit.
“I played for the U-19 Japanese national team 18 years ago that Imaizumi-san coached. I was super young and had a lot to learn, on and off the field, and he helped guide me in the right direction,” said Nagasato in a team press release. “His passion for soccer is amazing. He will bring huge possibilities to the team and push us to a higher level.”
“I worked with Imaizumi at Florida State where he helped me tremendously in learning the outside back position and was a huge asset in helping the team succeed,” said Krueger. “I’m looking forward to working with him again and know that he will be a wonderful addition to the Red Stars organization.”
Two Red Stars make June Team of the Month
After a month that saw the team go unbeaten, it’s not surprising that the Red Stars had a couple players on the NWSL Media Association’s Team of the Month (of which I am a voting member, full disclosure.)
Pugh’s addition to the squad is almost written in pen at this point, as she scored three goals and notched an assist in just four games in June. But Tatumn Milazzo also got a nod in defense, which is a very nice piece of recognition for the current most capped player Chicago’s backline. I must admit, I voted for Zoe Morse to get some recognition herself, but Milazzo’s tenacity as a 1v1 defender has been immense for the Red Stars’ steady performances this month, and her shoutout is well deserved.
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