Danny Colaprico is a midfielder for the Chicago Red Stars. She spoke to Just Women’s Sports ahead of the Red Stars semifinal clash with Sky Blue FC tonight about what the team needs to do to make it to the Challenge Cup finals. 

You guys upset OL Reign in the quarterfinals on penalties. How confident were you heading into PKs?

We were super confident. We worked on them the day before the game, and everyone nailed their PK. I feel like the players that stepped up, those are the ones that felt pretty confident about taking a penalty in the moment. And right before we went out our coach Rory just looked at us and was like, “Well, you guys, you have the best keeper in the world. All you have to do is put your shots away and we’ll win this.” And that gave us all more confidence, knowing that we have Alyssa in the goal. We all looked at each other and we’re like, “Oh yeah, we got this.”

Before going into PKs, there were a couple early shots on both sides. What were your thoughts about the energy and level of play throughout the match?

Going into the game, we knew that OL Reign would be a tough team to play. And I feel like as the game wore, everyone was getting really tired. It didn’t really sink in that we would go into penalty kicks until the very end of the game. Not once earlier during the game was I like, “Oh, this is definitely going to penalty kicks.” I felt pretty confident about where our team was at and I thought we were moving the ball really well. We created opportunities. It was just a matter of putting one in the back of the net. But then as the game wore on and it got into the 80th minute, I was, “Okay, this could probably go to PKs.” But again, I was still confident we would end up on top.

What’s nuts is that almost every other game went into penalty kicks as well.

Yeah, I know. We thought about that after. We were like, “Wow! Three of the quarter finals went into penalty kicks.” That can be exciting, but at the same time, each game was really unique.

You hinted at this, but do you think that fatigue has been and is going to continue to be a factor throughout the rest of the tournament? 

Yeah. With how this tournament is set up, I feel like fatigue has been a factor throughout. I mean, we had a short preparation. Sometimes there’s three games in a week. And we had a quick turnaround between the quarterfinal and now the semifinal. Fatigue is going to be a factor.

But with that being said, I feel like both sides are going to be fatigued. So the game will be determined on what team can last the longest on the field. And I feel like that’s kind of where the grittiness and the heart and the drive behind your team really comes into play in the games.

How has the team been preparing for Sky Blue FC?

It’s been a quick turnaround, so we don’t have that much time to prepare, but I feel like our main focus is going over some different ways we can put the ball back in the back of the net. I feel like we’ve harped on that a lot since we’ve been here. With such a short pre-season, we didn’t really get a chance to emphasize or put work into our frontline and our front players. So it’s been hard for us to find the back of the net, but we’ve been watching a lot of film, going over the different movements of each player, and I feel like we feel pretty confident that as soon as we score one goal, the goals are going to just keep coming.

Outside of putting the ball in the back of the net, what would you say is the team’s biggest focus mentally heading into the game? 

I’d say the biggest thing that we want to focus on as a team is moving the ball and playing pretty soccer. But at the same time, in this league, a lot of games are won just by battling and grinding out the game. It’s grittiness and fight and all those other intangible things. So a big emphasis on this game for us is combining those two and bringing them together, finding the right times to play soccer, but also at the same time, realizing that to win a game, you don’t always have to play pretty. I hate to say that, but sometimes it really is just grinding up games and finding ways to score. We have to bring that energy against Sky Blue.