BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Red Stars acquired Savannah McCaskill on June 19 and four days later she made her debut, starting up top against Reign FC.
The 22-year-old forward came in a trade from Sky Blue FC for the Red Stars’ highest first-round pick and a second-round pick in next year’s draft. McCaskill had a pair of quality chances in the first half, but it wasn’t enough in the Red Stars’ 1-0 loss to Reign FC on Sunday at SeatGeek Stadium.
Jess Fishlock scored in the 80th minute, receiving a feed from Ifeoma Onumonu and turning on her defender in the box to beat goalkeeper Emily Boyd.
“It was a good goal and I get that, but just a little movement from me and a great ball from Ife,” Fishlock said.
Reign FC (3-1-5, 14 points) picked up a win in Bridgeview after losing 3-0 to the Red Stars on April 28. They also did so with eight players away on international duty for the World Cup and eight more players out with injuries.
“Any win is an important win, but I think this one is huge for us for several different things,” Reign coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “One, just keeps us up in the top group in the group that is fighting for playoff spots. Another thing is, for our group it was important to get a big win. You play a team like Chicago away, it’s a huge win because we went through some adversity and injuries.
While it didn’t result in any goals, McCaskill made her impact known early on, playing assertively at forward. She hit the outside of the post on a tight angle shot in the 30th minute. A few minutes before halftime she unleashed a hard-hit shot that forced a good save from Casey Murphy.
She also took every corner kick and free kicks in attacking areas.
“It was kind of good to get the first one under my belt,” McCaskill said. “Obviously we’d like to get a win at home, but it was good to get with the girls and come out from the start and play with them.”
McCaskill got moved to an attacking midfield spot after Michele Vasconcelos subbed into the match for Nikki Stanton in the 59th minute. McCaskill was then taken out of the match in the 83rd minute.
Having only a few training sessions with the team doesn’t make for the easiest transition, but McCaskill has played with some of the players before in other club teams. McCaskill played with Sydney FC in the winter with Red Stars midfielder Danielle Colaprico. She also has six caps with the senior U.S. national team.
“Luckily I played with a lot of the girls between national camp and other club teams so I am kind of familiar with them and know how they play, which is always a good thing,” McCaskill said. “It was a pretty easy transition.”
Red Stars coach Rory Dames said the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NWSL Draft “had some good moments,” but can get better.
“There are some things that she’s definitely going to have to improve to get on the field for us when everybody is here, but some of the qualities that she has are different than what anybody else in our group has,” Dames said. “When everybody is here I think she’ll add a different dimension of things that we can do. I thought for coming in for three days and not really knowing a lot of the players, she worked hard, got in some good spots. I don’t think we brought her in here because we thought was going to win a game for us today.”
The Red Stars (3-4-2, 11 points) continue to struggle offensively without Sam Kerr. Chicago hasn’t scored in the three matches the Australian forward has missed while at the World Cup.
“We’re keeping the ball,” midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo said. “We’re getting into the final third. It’s just that last piece. We had a ton of crosses. We just couldn’t get on the end of them.”
Dames said he talked to Kerr on Saturday after Australia’s exit in the Round of 16. He told her to take as long as she needs before coming back to the Red Stars.