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Chicago Red Stars NWSL 2017 Preview

Will the Red Stars light it up and bring a soccer championship back to Chicago in 2017?

2017 SheBelieves Cup - United States v France
Chicago Red Stars Captain: Christen Press
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Over the years, Chicago has established a team culture that matches the grit of the city they represent. It started years ago in 2013 when head coach Rory Dames and former team captain Lori Chalupny emphasized a ‘don’t quit’ mentality that is representative of Chicago’s blue collar working class. Although Chalupny has since retired, Dames and the front office have collaborated to create a team that can compete year to year. From winning drafts, to developing local players, to having a strong reserves team, the Red Stars are a squad that have been on the rise. The fanbase is still growing, but is loyal, and they are eager to call the Red Stars champions.

The final roster has been released with some new additions that may help answer some old questions of player depth, and while many have pegged the team as a playoff contender, the whispers of expectation for a championship are stronger than ever. If Chicago can establish their chemistry sooner rather than later, they could prove to be a leading candidate as shield winners and this could be the year they bring a soccer championship to sweet home Chicago.

Key Facts

At the end of the 2016 season, Chicago was the team that extended all of their 2016 player roster contracts, and their 2017 preseason roster included 6 additional players. Along with trying to grow the player pool, the front office has been hard at work incorporating a new marketing campaign for the team with “My Kind Of Town.” Fans looking to engage with the team through social media communities can do so using the hashtag #MKOT.

2016 Record

9 wins 5 losses 6 Draws

2016 Playoffs

Semi-Final, lost against Washington Spirit in extra time

Key Additions

Acquired rights to Summer Green in offseason from Seattle Reign for 37th draft pick and international roster spot for 2017. Draft picks Morgan Proffitt (M, Marquette) Michele Vasconcelos (M/F, BYU) and Lauren Kaskie (M, UCLA). Vasconcelos will miss the 2017 after announcing her pregnancy, she will return for the 2018 season. Green, Proffitt, and Kaskie have all been signed to the 2017 roster.

Key Losses

Amanda DaCosta traded to Boston Breakers, received third and fourth round selections no. 28 and no. 38 in 2017 draft. Cara Walls and Courtney Raeztman have been waived.

Projected Starting XI (formation)

4-4-2 (Diamond) Naeher, Short, Naughton, Ertz, Gilliland, Colaprico, Proffitt, Huerta, Dibernardo, McCaffrey, Press.

Major trophies won all-time

Won the 2012 US Womens Open Cup at Toyota park.

What we think of our team

Chicago Red Stars are a team that used to be under the radar, but they have grown consistently be a part of playoff conversations. They have yet to break through to the final, but fans are hoping that this will be the year.

What outsiders think of our team

Coach Rory Dames always has the Red Stars prepared to play. He blends a talented team with one that can play very physical and disruptive to the opponent style making them hard to play no matter what team you bring. Always a tough team to face.

Biggest Rival, and why

Boston and NC Courage (formerly Flash) could be considered rivals based on longevity. All three teams have history from playing in prior pro leagues. However, based solely on NWSL history, both Chicago and FC Kansas City have a healthy rivalry that caters both to the Midwest region and general competitiveness from both clubs. The Red Stars are 5-4-4 overall in the rivalry for the general season, not including a Preseason draw from 2014 and the semi-final loss in 2015.

Best social media follow

Stephanie McCaffrey. While training in her offseason, McCaffrey helped launch a new website with Samantha and Kristie Mewis. Together they produce content as a lifestyle blog for the female athlete. It offers insight, humor, and even fashion tips. You can find Stephanie McCaffrey on Twitter or on Instagram.

If you’re looking for ways to enhance your game day experience follow the official supporters group of the Chicago Red Stars, Local 134. You can also find them on Twitter.

Our season hinges on

Whether forward chemistry will be an issue. While the Red Stars have strikers on their roster that pose a real threat, rarely have there been games where they haven't had to rely on the magic that Christen Press can bring on the pitch. After last season proved successful for both Huerta and Press, the arrival of McCaffrey and addition of Summer Green could prove lethal.

Why this year won’t be like last year

While there isn’t a major tournament like the Olympics or World Cup to disrupt NWSL chemistry, there are various international friendlies scheduled for U.S. allocated players this season. While this may disrupt some teams, Chicago has been able to field a team to compete in the absence of their national team players. However, depth has often been a question in the past regarding center back or center mid positions. Chicago has made efforts to try and improve this through the last two drafts in players like Katie Naughton (2016 draft class) and now Morgan Proffitt (2017 draft class).

Key Player

Sofia Huerta caught the attention of many in her rookie season when she made a name for herself while star forward Christen Press was off on World Cup duty netting 6 goals. She was considered a finalist for 2015 Rookie of the year. Her sophomore season saw 7 goals as she moved closer toward the wing. While there is no doubt that Huerta is the second scoring threat for Chicago, this season can be the year where she truly become a star in the NWSL.

Predicted Finish in 2017

Second Place and hosting a Semi-Final in Toyota Park.

Wild Prediction

The offense will run the show this year. Chicago has historically been a defensive minded team. That trend continued last year as the defense was the bright spot with lots of attention on saves made by Goal Keeper Alyssa Naeher, and the rise of Casey Short and Arin Gilliland as a dynamic outback duo of NWSL. This year will showcase the offense with more consistent options at the attack in Huerta, McCaffrey, Hoy, and now Green.