CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (March 22, 2018) — While other clubs are switching around rosters — or in the Houston Dash’s case, completely overturning their roster — the Chicago Red Stars are sticking with what works.
Head coach Rory Dames — who enters his sixth season in charge of the Red Stars — primarily kept the same roster from last year intact.
Aside from losing Christen Press in a three-way trade with Sky Blue FC and the Houston Dash, the Red Stars returned goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, Casey Short and Sofia Huerta — just to name a few.
2018 Chicago Red Stars: NWSL Preview
There were just a handful of new additions for the Red Stars.
Rosie White, Ashton Miller, and Joanna Boyles were picked up in the Dispersal Draft, after the folding of the Boston Breakers. However, after recent roster cuts, White is the only former Breaker remaining on the roster.
Also in the Dispersal Draft, Chicago selected to retain the rights of Whitney Engen. Engen hasn’t officially retired from professional women’s soccer but took the last season off to pursue other opportunities.
The team also traded for Samantha Kerr and Nikki Stanton in the three-way trade. Kerr was named the MVP of the league last season after scoring 17 goals.
Talking to the Red Stars’ official website, Kerr said she’s “most excited to link back up” with Vanessa DiBernardo and Alyssa Mautz.”
“I previously played with them at Perth Glory [in Australia] and loved playing with them both,” Kerr said.
Securing a top-notch player like Kerr was the best trick up Dames’ sleeve.
Player to Watch
The most interesting player on the roster is Sofia Huerta.
The reason? Inconsistency in positions.
In no way is that Huerta’s fault, though. For the Red Stars, Huerta is listed as a forward on the latest roster put out by Dames. She also has the midfielder title on her profile on the Red Stars web page.
However, whenever she features for the U.S. Women’s National Team, she stars on defense. That can slow down a player’s development.
Playing in the position a club team mandates is what should go with the national team.
The inconsistencies do nothing but slow down Huerta. Huerta could go from having four or five weeks of fantastic play on offense just to be called to national team camp and have that pulled away.
Huerta is up against a tough task in terms of positioning. However, she has the talent to adapt quickly.
Thoughts on Head Coach Rory Dames
The last three NWSL seasons, Dames has taken the Red Stars to the playoffs. However, an NWSL championship has been out of reach.
Dames secured a major pickup by bringing Kerr to Chicago. Despite giving up Press, acquiring the league’s most recent MVP is a huge perk.
Also, keeping a roster intact is pretty impressive. This has been one of the busiest offseasons in NWSL history.
Chicago’s roster was hardly untouched as a result. However, Dames knows that his team can be successful and make it over the hump to the dreaded semifinals. Add Kerr to the equation of Ertz, Huerta, Vanessa DiBernardo and Yuki Nagasato is a bonus.
Dames’ experience helps him out too. He’s in a distinct group of coaches that have only been with one NWSL club. It’s clear that he has the trust of his players since they all made the decision to play.
While other teams were making bold, brash and questionable decisions, Dames is keeping it simple. That will help Chicago go a long way.
As mentioned, Chicago kept a lot of their roster in place.
However, the loss of Press shouldn’t be underestimated. Press is a longtime professional and even has experience overseas by featuring in Sweden from 2012-14.
Last season in Chicago, Press scored 11 goals and provided four assists in 23 appearances. She originally signed with the Red Stars in 2014 and has made 68 appearances since.
Wherever Press ends up — there are rumors surrounding if Press will return to Sweden or sign with the Seattle Reign — the club will benefit.
Press is a special type of talent, and having an attachment with the USWNT helps as well. There is a lot of drama surrounding her and the refusal to even give the Houston Dash a shot. However, Press is still a desirable player.
She’ll find a home in no time.
Three straight postseason appearances under Dames has been impressive, but this might be the year where it comes to a halt.
The biggest positive that Chicago has on other clubs is that grace periods for a smooth transition are almost invisible. This team has been together for over a year now, except for three additions of Kerr, Stanton, and White.
However, comparing them to the rosters that the Orlando Pride, Washington Spirit, North Carolina Courage and Utah Royals have, it’s hard to see them make the playoffs.
This is where the frustrations of having just four teams make the playoffs come into the picture. However, it makes for some fantastic competition.
Chicago could be an upset team, but I see them finishing the season in fifth place, just barely missing the playoffs.