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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Brown

A preseason look at the Chicago Red Stars

Who are they?

The Chicago Red Stars kick off their tenth NWSL season, March 20, in their first game of the 2022 Challenge Cup against the Houston Dash. They were one of the first NWSL clubs to form, as they were members of the league in its inaugural 2013 season. The Red Star’s women’s soccer history dates back to 2007, when Chicago was named one of the cities that would have a WPS team. Following the folding of the WPS in 2012, the Red Stars then joined the NWSL.

The Chicago Red Stars's municipal flag-based crest

Chicago’s primary team colors are blue, red, black and white. Their crest is meant to be a reconfiguration of the Chicago municipal flag, and the stripes represent the Chicago River.


Last season was a year of turmoil for the NWSL in regard to coaches. Former Red Stars Head Coach Rory Dames resigned after allegations of verbal and emotional abuse from players. Seven players including National Team forward Christen Press filed complaints with the U.S. Soccer Federation over Dames’s actions. Press’s first complaint dates back to 2014, when she told U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati about her concerns, but they were dismissed.


“I was made to feel by U.S. Soccer that I was in the wrong, there was nothing to report, and that this was acceptable,” Press said in an interview.


An investigation was launched in 2018, but Dames was quickly cleared. Once allegations emerged against other NWSL coaches, kickstarted by former Spirit player Kaiya McCullough’s exposure of Richie Burke’s abusive behavior, the NWSL began to examine claims about other coaches more heavily. Their inquiries led to a 1998 police report on Dames’s mistreatment of players he coached as part of the youth soccer club, Eclipse Select. The NWSL found evidence of behaviors ranging from emotional abuse to sexually suggestive comments and spending inappropriate amounts of time with players outside of soccer.


News of Dames’s resignation from his position as head coach came Nov. 21, 2021, just one day after the Red Stars lost the NWSL Championship to the Washington Spirit. Chicago announced in February the hiring of Chris Petrucelli as the new head coach.


Petrucelli is an experienced college coach, with nine seasons spent with Southern Methodist University and another 13 at the University of Texas. He coached Notre Dame to a national championship in 1995, and is ranked seventh in total wins among NCAA Division I women’s soccer coaches.


“Being graced with the opportunity to work with some of the best players in the world is a position any coach would jump at,” Petrucelli said. “I’m excited to get started helping the team accomplish their goals while fostering an environment of joy and positivity.”


Meet the players

U.S. Women’s National Team starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is back in goal for the Red Stars. Naeher has been with the club since 2015, when she was traded from the Boston Breakers. Emily Boyd and Bridgette Skiba are the other goalkeepers on the roster for Chicago. Each are solid alternative options during any international breaks where Naeher will be absent, but Boyd has the most experience of the two, as Skiba graduated from Oregon State last year and is new to the NWSL.


Naeher will continue to work well with center back Tierna Davidson, another fellow National Team member. This will be Davidson’s fourth season with the club, as she was the first pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft, forgoing her final year of college soccer at Stanford University. Davidson’s composure and athleticism holds together Chicago’s backline. She will have the responsibility of helping usher in a slightly different starting back four, with fullback Casey Krueger out on maternity leave.


The Red Stars have an experienced and loyal midfield. Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo are long-time members of the team and have plenty of time playing together under their wing. Morgan Gautrat brings together the trio with her calm presence and technical finesse.


Chicago fans will likely be ecstatic over Yuki Nagasato’s return to the club. After a few years away from the Red Stars, Nagasato will be able to show off her exciting style of play once again in front of fans at SeatGeek Stadium. She will be joined on the frontline by a group of talented players including Mallory Pugh and Kealia Watt.


Pugh posted a streak of solid performances last season and has been called back into National Team camps following some time away to work on her form. She has dealt with issues of consistency since 2019, but proved herself to still be a valuable asset to both the Red Stars and USWNT. Pugh is only 23, and while she’s already been in the women’s professional soccer spotlight for nearly six years, she is still extremely young with plenty of talent and potential left to unlock.


What do I want to see?

After the whirlwind of NWSL coach firings last season, many teams may be feeling eager for a new start. It’s possible that Dames’s abuse through the years held the Red Stars back. Yet, they still had much success on the field, consistently finding themselves in the upper third of the table and playing in the 2021 NWSL Championship in the midst of Dames’s resignation.


That being said, Chicago has never captured an NWSL title. They made the playoffs seven

Chicago's Mallory Pugh battles with Washington's Kelley O'Hara during the 2021 NWSL Championship, Nov. 20, 2021. (Photo//USA Today)

years in a row from 2015-2021, and played in the NWSL Championship in the 2019 and 2021 seasons. Additionally, they appeared in the NWSL’s Challenge Cup Final in 2020.


It will be important for the Red Stars to retain their winning habits despite having a new coach. They are considered to be the winningest women’s professional soccer team in the United States considering their tenure of over a decade in professional leagues. There is no argument that they aren’t good enough to win an NWSL championship, but they will have to translate their winning culture into an actual title in order to truly boast the label.

Chicago having a new coach with a coaching philosophy that emphasizes positivity and love for the game will be such an important quality for the team to utilize. While chemistry and playing style changes may take time to develop, it will be great to know that players can enjoy themselves again without the nagging worry of dealing with Dames.


Full Finalized Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Emily Boyd, Alyssa Naeher

DEFENDERS (8): Tierna Davidson (SEI) , Casey Krueger (ML), Mikenna McManus (COE), Tatumn Milazzo, Zoe Morse, Kayla Sharples (LOAN), Bianca St-Georges, Arin Wright

MIDFIELDERS (8): Jill Aguilera, Danielle Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, Channing Foster, Samantha Fisher (COE), Morgan Gautrat, Alyssa Mautz, Sarah Woldmoe (ML)

FORWARDS (8): Ava Cook (COE), Sarah Griffith (CDP), Rachel Hill, Sarah Luebbert (LOAN), Yuki Nagasato (INT), Mallory Pugh, Ella Stevens, Kealia Watt (NYR)

Key:

CDP – 2022 NWSL Draft Pick

COE – Contract Offer Extended

INT – International

NRI – Non-Roster Invitee

NYR – Not Yet Reported

LOAN – Player on loan

ML – Maternity Leave

SEI – Season Ending Injury



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