NWSL Chicago Red Stars preview: With Rory Dames gone, club’s next chapter begins with major changes

The National Women’s Soccer League preseason is underway and the Chicago Red Stars are among 12 clubs beginning their journeys to the 2022 season. The 2022 Challenge Cup will kick off on March 18 with the Cup final closing on May 7. Fans can watch Challenge Cup matches across CBS platforms live and on demand with Paramount+.

To sat the Chicago Red Stars offseason got off to a rocky start doesn’t even begin to cover it. Hours after a 2021 NWSL Championship loss the late night resignation of their head coach Rory Dames. Dames managed the club through the entirety of their NWSL existence, and his sudden resignation seemed shocking until hours later a national story broke detailing allegations from former players of verbal abuse and harassment by Dames. 

As the Red Stars were in the process of selecting a new head coach, a second story also reported disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct by the former Red Stars head coach at the youth level during his time with Eclipse Soccer.

As preseason began the Red Stars still had not hired a coach, despite having pledged to do so in January. Nearly three weeks into their preseason, on February 18, the club announced NCAA Division I coach Chris Petrucelli out of Southern Methodist University as new head coach. 

As the regular season approaches, let’s take a look at Chicago Red Stars ahead of the 2022 NWSL season:

Offseason overview

Finish in 2021: The club finished in fourth place in the league standings and made their seventh consecutive semifinals appearance, and third finals appearance in franchise history. They lost 2-1 against Washington Spirit as runners up in the 2021 NWSL Championship.

Biggest losses: The fallout from revelations about Dames led to massive roster turnover during their offseason. Several players were traded, with the franchise admitting were player requests, including long time Red Stars Julie Ertz and Chicagoland native Sarah Gorden. Katie Johnson, Mackenzy Doniak, Nikki Stanton, and the rights to top prospect Kelsey Turnbow were also traded. 

Goalkeeper Cassie Miller, who led the team in net during their playoff run, was traded to Kansas City Current. Defender Zoey Goralski announced her retirement.

Biggest acquisitions: Outside of new players acquired with late round picks in the 2022 NWSL Draft, the team made no major player acquisitions during the offseason. The franchise welcomed back the return of fan favorite — Japanese international Yuki Nagasato —  in a move that was spearheaded by Racing Louisville FC to reunite Nagasato in Chicago with family and her fiancé. The Red Stars also re-signed several USWNT players to club contracts with Alyssa Naeher, Tierna Davidson, Mallory Pugh, and Casey Krueger returning.

Biggest burning question entering 2022 Season

The club navigated their preseason with an acting head coach, Rade Tanaskovic, who was the club’s goalkeeper coach for three seasons, along with assistant coaches Julianne Sitch and Fabrice Gautrat. Now with Petrucelli in place, the club is trying to step into a new era still plagued with shadows. The off the pitch environment could still impact what the team will try to do on the field, with their legacy as a playoff contending team on the line.

The Red Stars have made the playoffs every year since 2015. As the league continues to grow, expanding to 12 teams and different rosters, can the Red Stars keep up with league, or will this be the first time the miss the playoffs in seven years?

What they’re saying

Danielle Colaprico is entering her eighth year in the league after being drafted by the Red Stars in 2015. She won rookie of the year honors with the club and has been part of every Red Stars playoff appearance during their time in the league.

Colaprico sat down with CBS Sports podcast Attacking Third to discuss navigating the preseason with the Red Stars as the club proceeded with a head coaching hire. The club included former and current Red Stars players as part of the coaching search, though Colaprico confirmed she wasn’t part of the nine players in the search committee. 

She has both professional and personal goals for herself this year after navigating some injuries throughout last season, but is placing an emphasis on finding joy in the game once more. 

“I feel like last year I struggled a little bit with my body and staying healthy throughout the year, so that was tough on me. I feel like for a second there, I lost a little bit of love for the game.” said Colaprico.

“The biggest thing for me is finding joy in the game again, and getting back to myself on the field.” 

Want more coverage of women’s soccer? Listen below and make sure to follow Attacking Third, A CBS Soccer Podcast devoted to bringing you everything you need to know from the NWSL and around the globe.  

Preseason Roster

As the Red Stars look towards the regular season, they participated in a preseason tournament with Portland Thorns FC, OL Reign, and the U-23 side. The club narrowed their preseason roster down ahead of the Challenge Cup, though the team will be without several players still.

Defender Casey Krueger and midfielder Sarah Woldmoe will be absent as they are on respective maternity leaves, and forward Kaelia Watt sustained a torn ACL during the 2021 semifinal that will keep her out for an extended period of time. Defender Kayla Sharples and forward Sarah Luebbert are currently on loan, and 2021 top prospect Madison Hayley from Stanford has not yet reported to camp, with no indication from the club that she actually will participate in the upcoming season. 

GOALKEEPERS (3): Emily Boyd, Alyssa Naeher, Bridgette Skiba (NRI)

DEFENDERS (12): Brianna Alger, Tierna Davidson, Jayda Hylton-Pelaia, Amanda Kowalski (NRI), Casey Krueger, Mikenna McManus, Tatumn Milazzo, Zoe Morse, Kayla Sharples, Bianca St. Georges, Haley VanFossen, Arin Wright

MIDFIELDERS (7): Danielle Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, Samantha Fisher, Morgan Gautrat, Regan Steigleder, Ella Stevens, Sarah Woldmoe 

FORWARDS (11): Jill Aguilera, Ava Cook, Channing Foster, Sarah Griffith, Madison Haley, Rachel Hill, Sarah Luebbert, Alyssa Mautz, Yuki Nagasato, Mallory Pugh, Kealia Watt

Projected Finish

Expect the Red Stars to continue to be a frustrating team to play when all starters are available and healthy. Otherwise an expanded league, a surprise late coaching hire, and shorter time to prepare — could signal the Red Stars out of the post season for the first time since 2015. 

Source link