NWSL Preview: Red Stars in the Chicago Sky
- Updated: January 16, 2013
The Chicago Red Stars are back in the top division of women’s professional soccer entering 2013. One of eight teams that will be in the inaugural NWSL season that begins in April, the Red Stars are no stranger to women’s professional soccer.
Founded in 2007, the Red Stars came onto the women’s professional soccer scene in 2009 with the WPS. Their first season in WPS saw Chicago finish with a record of 5 wins,10 losses and 5 draws for 20 points and a sixth place finish, keeping them out of the playoffs. The 2010 season didn’t fair much better for them as once again they finished the regular season in sixth place with 7 wins, 11 losses, 6 draws and 24 points.
Off the field financial problems saw the Red Stars withdraw from WPS in December of 2010 to reorganize the club. In 2011, the Red Stars joined the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and their fortunes changed. Competing in the North Division of the Midwest Conference, Chicago finished the season with a record of 8 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw for 25 points and a first place regular season finish. The Red Stars were in the playoffs for the first time. The Midwest semifinals saw Chicago take on FC Indiana, where they advanced to the Midwest final by winning 4-0. The Conference final pitted the Red Stars against FC Milwaukee Nationals, with Chicago coming out on top again by a score of 4-0. The WPSL Championship semifinal put Chicago up against Tampa Bay Hellenic. The Red Stars beat Tampa Bay by a final score of 2-1 for the right to play in the WPSL Final. The Orange County Waves faced the Chicago Red Stars for the WPSL title in 2011. At the end of regulation, the score read 1-1. After two periods of extra time, the Waves beat the Red Stars by a score of 2-1.
The 2012 season saw Chicago join the new WPSL Elite Division with former WPS teams the Western New York Flash and Boston Breakers. The regular season ended with the Red Stars in fourth place. Chicago’s record in the regular season was 9 wins, 1 loss and 4 draws for 28 points. The Red Stars were once again in the playoffs. The WPSL Elite Semi-finals saw Chicago take on the Boston Breakers. The Red Stars advanced to the Championship game by beating the Breakers 3-1. The Final again saw Chicago face an old opponent in the Western New York Flash. At the end of regulation, the Red Stars saw a familiar score line as it read 1-1. No additional goals were scored during the two extra time periods, so the game went into a penalty shootout, where the Flash were victorious 4-2.
Even though the Red Stars did not win the WPSL Elite Championship, they are the US National Cup Champions in 2012. The US National Cup consists of hundreds of clubs from across the United States. Advancement through the tournament means winning area and state titles before moving on to the regional stages. After the regional competition, you advance to the National Cup. The Red Stars advanced all the way to the US Women’s Open Cup and on July 22, 2012, were crowned champions with a win over New York Athletic Club 3-2.
When the NWSL announced the eight teams that were going to be participating in the inaugural season, Chicago was one of them. Leading the Red Stars is coach Rory Dames. Dames was hired on to be the head coach when the team moved to the WPSL in 2011 and remains in that position today. He is joined by assistant coaches Stepanie Foster (first assistant coach) and Christian Lavers (second assistant coach) and goalkeeper coach Trae Manny.
While the Red Stars have yet to announce a permanent home for the NWSL season, they have played their matches in and around the Chicago area. It is believed that they will continue to split play of their home games at Concordia University Chicago Athletic Complex in River Forest, Illinois as well as the Lakeside Athletic Field at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.