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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13



SPORTS Red Stars prepare to kick off NWSL season against Utah Royals
by Lu Calzada

This article shared 7034 times since Fri Mar 15, 2024
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It's been a busy winter for the Red Stars, and it's time to put their work to the test.

Following a last place finish in the 2023 NWSL season, Chicago has had an active offseason transforming the team. After signing a new head coach and general manager along with multiple new players, the Red Stars announced their 2024 regular season roster March 13 packed with fresh faces.

The team will travel to Salt Lake City March 16 to face off against the Utah Royals in its NWSL season opener. Lorne Donaldson was selected as head coach in December 2023 and comes to Chicago as a former assistant and head coach of the Jamaican women's national team. Also in this year's leadership team, Richard Feuz was appointed general manager in early February and comes from Switzerland's Servette F.C., while Karen Leetzow, former chief legal officer of the U.S. Soccer Federation, was announced as club president November 2023.

While maintaining some staple veterans such as forward Mallory Swanson and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the player roster has also seen quite a few new additions, including two new goalkeepers and a good part of the Red Stars' midfield and defense. The team's latest signings include four draft picks as well as two non-rostered invitees.

With all the new additions to the club, the last eight weeks of preseason have provided vital time for building chemistry amongst the team.

"I feel like people have come in and transitioned pretty well and we've formed this new group and this new identity and this new Red Stars [team]," midfielder Cari Roccaro said. "I think we've been very competitive in this preseason and now we're just fine-tuning our details … people have transitioned into this team seamlessly and it's been really nice to have a bunch of new girls come in."

Naeher, who just last week won the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup with the USWNT, said the offseason allowed her and other players the opportunity to improve in their individual roles. She said that throughout the season—especially with so many new pieces—everyone will need to have a sense of individual accountability as well as find how best to fit into the team and win as a group.

"The offseason is about individual development that can then obviously overall contribute to the team's success," she said. "Finding out and taking inventory from a previous season about what didn't go well [and] what did go well, building on some of those things and fine-tuning a lot of little smaller weaknesses. Then, where your role is in contributing to the team."

It's been a transformative past year for Chicago's business side, as well—Laura Ricketts' acquisition of the Red Stars along with her coalition of investors brings in new perspectives and approaches to the organization. Her investors' group is one of the most diverse in major league sports.

In a 2023 interview with Windy City Times, Ricketts discussed how she saw new potential in the club when she heard it would likely be sold following the 2022 Sally Yates report. Although she and her team don't work with the dealings involving signing players and such, Ricketts said it's important to her to hire the best folks she can find to staff her club.

The Utah Royals re-enter the league following the expansion that also included Bay F.C., a Bay Area based club. This weekend's matchup will mark their first game in the NWSL following their discontinuation in 2020.

Donaldson said preparing to play against a new team means the Red Stars can't focus on a known playing style or team approach, but need to focus more on specific players.

"It's more about individual players they have and individual player tendencies, we haven't seen them on film or tapes or anything," he said. "The focus has to lean to us. 'How can we go in there and how can we leave a print?' so we turn the script and they have to adjust to what we do."

Chicago faces off against Utah at America First Field in Sandy, Utah March 16. Kick-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT and the match is set to be broadcast on ION.

This article shared 7034 times since Fri Mar 15, 2024
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