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Mallory Pugh, Kealia Watt injuries too much for Red Stars to overcome


The Chicago Red Stars had everything thrown at them during the NWSL playoffs, with a string of key players sidelined due to injury.

While Chicago was able to overcome adversity in their semifinal matchup against the Portland Thorns, the team’s absences were too much for the Red Stars in the final, losing the NWSL Championship 2-1 to the Washington Spirit.

The team first had to play without Mallory Pugh and Kayla Sharples, who were under COIVD-19 protocols, during the team’s semifinal. The two players joined Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Casey Krueger on the Red Stars’ growing injury list.

Then, during their match against the Thorns, forward Kealia Watt went down early with an injury that would force her off the pitch for the rest of the semifinal and the final.

The title matchup brought more bad luck for Chicago, with Pugh returning from COVID-19 isolation, but leaving the game with an injury at halftime.

Vanessa DiBernardo also exited the match early with an apparent knock. That left the team without consistent starters Pugh, Watt, Ertz, DiBernardo, Krueger, and Naeher. The squad also had to contend with a late injury to defender Tatumn Milazzo.

Despite the critical absences, the Red Stars still came just a goal shy of Washington, showcasing grit in unprecedented circumstances.

Saturday’s loss marks the second NWSL Championship run for Chicago, with the club also finishing as runner-ups in the 2019 title match against North Carolina.