Chicago Red Stars drowning out external noise, ready to face San Diego in first round of NWSL playoffs

Chicago Red Stars' captain Vanessa DiBernardo understands what the playoffs mean and what it takes to go through them. Sunday's matchup against the San Diego Wave will be the team's and her seventh consecutive postseason appearance.

"Any time you play in a playoff game, there's just a different feeling to it. There's just a different kind of emotion," DiBernardo said.

The Red Stars clinched their spot as the sixth seed in the playoffs two weeks ago with a 2-0 win in their final regular-season match against Angel City FC.

Now they face a team that beat them twice in the regular season, both times by a goal.

No. 3 seed San Diego is led by USWNT icon and regular season golden boot winner, Alex Morgan. In just 17 matches, Morgan bagged 15 goals and 2 assists, contributing to 17 of the team's 32 regular season goals. However, her status is questionable as midfielder's Taylor Kornieck.

If the Red Stars want to advance, they'll have to limit the ultra-talented Morgan.

"I think this is a team that both times we played them, we felt like we could have gotten more out of that game," said defender Arin Wright. "So I think the fact that it is San Diego, gives us a little bit more oomph and excitement for us."

Red Stars wings Mal Pugh and Yuki Nagasato each come into Sunday's matchup off a goal in their last game. Their performance will be critical to the Red Stars' advancing.

Plus, the return of defender Bianca St-Georges will also be a massive boost for the Red Stars.

This playoff appearance also comes in the wake of the removal of the organization's owner, Arnim Whisler, who was ousted amid an investigation of past abusive and sexual misconduct within the NWSL.

Wright says now that this issue has been settled, there's a bit of extra fuel to the Red Star fire.

"The people that we've been wanting to see go for a bit are gone," Wright said, "and now it's kind of like 'let's (expletive) do this."

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