Editorial (April 8, 2019) — For the last consecutive four years, the Chicago Red Stars have made the NWSL Playoffs. However, for the last four years, the Red Stars have failed to make it past the semifinal stage.
Rory Dames has been the coach of the Red Stars since their days in the WPSL. Chicago has been one of the more historical clubs in women’s soccer with a long history of playing in the WPS, WPSL and NWSL. The first two years of NWSL play, the Red Stars didn’t make the playoffs. Ever since, they’ve been stuck in the semifinals.
Chicago Red Stars Preview: What kind of impact will Tierna Davidson have?
Chicago has a talented roster that can turn the tide. Sam Kerr, the young, but legendary, Australian international led the league for two-straight seasons with the most goals. Last year was her first season in Chicago, leaving Sky Blue FC. Kerr knocked in 16 goals.
There are some diamond in the rough players, too. Vanessa DiBernardo, Danielle Colaprico and Nikki Stanton have no problem holding down the fort.
Last year, the Red Stars finished with a 9-10-15 record, just barely squeaking into the playoffs. The competition around the NWSL continues to get better every year and Chicago will have to do more than just slide into the playoffs this year. Here are three big questions for the team heading into the 2019 season.
us: OUR SEASON STARTS THIS MONTH pic.twitter.com/rnZp9OjpnJ
— Chicago Red Stars (@chicagoredstars) April 1, 2019
How will Emily Boyd perform in the summer?
Last year, Alyssa Naeher was essentially crowned the U.S. Women’s National Team’s first-string goalkeeper. Before she was given the title, Naeher had been called into national team camps left and right. With the camp call-ups happening so much in women’s soccer, Chicago drafted a reliable goalkeeper last year.
Emily Boyd performed admirably for the Red Stars in two appearances. Against the Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC, Boyd earned two clean sheets and made five saves. Granted, Washington and Sky Blue were the two teams at the bottom of the table in 2018, but watching a rookie to earn two shut outs is impressive.
In 2019, Boyd will likely see her role increase. The United States has a long preparation camp before the FIFA Women’s World Cup begins, with matches on May 12, 16 and 26. Meanwhile, during that time frame, the Red Stars have three matches. Naeher will also be gone for Chicago’s June 2 match against the Portland Thorns.
The league takes a break for the group stage matches, but resumes during the knockout rounds. The United States will likely make it to the knockout round. This means that Boyd could see herself in goal for long periods of time.
Boyd has the chops to really make a name for herself during the summer absence of Naeher. While she might not stake claims to the starting spot once Naeher returns, she could lock a roster spot for years to come.
Meanwhile, Naeher isn’t getting any younger. She’s 30-year-old and certainly has a few more good years left. However, once she retires, Boyd could certainly take her spot.
To the legends that got us here. To the city that is our kind of town. To the fans that push us to be better.
— Chicago Red Stars (@chicagoredstars) March 15, 2019
What will the backline look like?
Tierna Davidson elected to skip her senior season at Stanford and declare for the NWSL College Draft. Her choice was rewarded with a No. 1 overall selection by the Red Stars.
With the Red Stars officially naming their roster on Monday, Davidson joins a defense that includes Brooke Elby, Zoey Goralski, Sarah Gorden, Katie Naughton, Arin Wright and her fellow USWNT teammate, Casey Short.
Looking at other defenses around the league, there’s a lot of star power. Portland, Houston and Orlando — just to name a few — have a mixture of different international players on their defense. Chicago might not have the star-power, household name, players, but they are consistent and reliable.
Elby joined the Red Stars last summer off a trade from the Utah Royals. Meanwhile, Zoey Goralski was drafted by the Red Stars in 2018 and featured for their reserves team in the WPSL. The Chicago Red Stars Reserves ended up winning the WPSL, which helped Goralski earn a promotion to the first team.
With Short, it’s a wonder to if she’ll make the World Cup roster.
Jill Ellis, the USWNT head coach, brings her into camp sometimes and then leaves her on the bench. There’s a chance that Short can go to the World Cup, but it’s extremely up in the air. Hypothetically speaking, should Short go to the World Cup, the Red Stars defense will consist of a lot of young players. Sarah Gorden and Arin Wright would easily be the veteran leaders in front of Emily Boyd.
Rory Dames is going to have some interesting choices to make on defense this season.
— Chicago Red Stars (@chicagoredstars) March 13, 2019
Will Katie Johnson seize her opportunity?
Katie Johnson experienced heartbreak when she and the Mexican Women’s National Team failed to qualify for the World Cup this summer. However, she was given a reprieve for her club career.
After spending one season with Sky Blue FC, Johnson was granted a trade. She didn’t have a bad year with Sky Blue, scoring four goals in 19 appearances. However, with the influx of forwards joining the New Jersey club, Johnson needed a new home. She found one when Sky Blue traded her to the Chicago Red Stars.
Chicago has a small forward grouping on their roster.
Sam Kerr is almost certainly going to the World Cup this summer. Meanwhile, Yuki Nagasato will likely be boarding the plane to France with Japan. That leaves Johnson as the only forward not going to the World Cup.
Of course, there will be national team replacement players. However, Johnson has a real chance to climb up the goal-scoring chart and become a real leader for her new club. She never hit the ground running in Seattle — she spent the 2017 season with the Reign — and last year was one to forget with Sky Blue. Johnson has the real chance to become a top goal-scorer in the NWSL.
— Chicago Red Stars (@chicagoredstars) March 29, 2019
Last Word: Red Stars miss the playoffs
The competition around the league is catching up.
After four years of consecutively making the playoffs, this year might not be a fifth year for Chicago. Losing Kerr for a long period of time, especially if Australia makes the knockout round, is going to hurt. The team doesn’t have a lot of depth up top and will rely on Chicago Red Stars Reserves players to help fill the gaps.
Julie Ertz has become an incredible leader in the midfield. Replacing her presence and voice is going to be a lot harder than replacing her as an athlete.
Chicago finishes the season in sixth place.