(CBS Local Sports)– The Chicago Red Stars are one of the final teams remaining in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup and forward Katie Johnson is excited about the team’s opportunity to win a championship in 2020.
The Red Stars lost in the title match last year against North Carolina and they have an opportunity to return to the final game again. First, they’ll have to go through Sky Blue FC in Wednesday night’s semifinal at 10 p.m. EST/PST on CBS All Access. Johnson was once a member of the New Jersey soccer team, so this is going to mean a little more for her.
“I think it’s in the back of your head a little bit,” said Johnson in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “I think the team has also changed a lot since I’ve been there. It’s definitely a different team and club. I’m excited to play them, but I’m not too in my head about it. It’s just another game to win. Hopefully we can pull through. It’s nice to see friends and familiar faces, but at the end of the day you are competing against them.”
The Red Stars didn’t play Sky Blue FC during the knockout stage and each team has two goals in five games. One of the big advantages for Chicago is the presence of U.S. Women’s National team star Julie Ertz. While Johnson has played with a ton of talented players, no one compares to Ertz.
“I think it’s her attention to detail,” said Johnson. “She wants to do extra and encourages all of us to do it as well. Even yesterday we were watching extra film and she started that. It’s just an extra want to get better and also just make the whole team better. She’s constantly communicating and bringing a passion to the game, which is unlike anyone else and she does it day in and day out.”
The winner of the Chicago/Sky Blue matchup will move onto the championship match on Saturday. While the NWSL Challenge Cup quarterfinals only featured one goal total in four games, Johnson says it won’t take much for Chicago to advance if they get a little offensive help on Wednesday night.
“When the season is cut a little shorter you have a little more risk for injury, which we’ve seen throughout this tournament,” said Johnson. “There’s give and take for each. I’m happy that we’ve made it this far and that we’re able to compete and play. It’s a pretty good situation. Throughout the tournament, a lot of teams have struggled to score and shows how great the defense on every team is. Hopefully, we can get some goals in the next games and I don’t think anyone is going to score against us.”
Watch the NWSL Challenge Cup on CBS All Access.