As the trade deadline approached, the Chicago Red Stars finalized a big midseason deal with Utah and Houston that saw the departures of Taylor Comeau, Samantha Johnson, and Sofia Huerta.
While much of the talk surrounding the trade focused on draft picks and those who left Chicago, the arrival of Brooke Elby has been a bit lost in the shuffle. A versatile and tenacious midfielder/defender, Elby has made her impact as an outside back for the Boston Breakers and, most currently, Utah Royals.
With Arin Gilliland a backline staple, the return of Casey Short, and the rising profile of Sarah Gorden, Elby fits a need that a number of teams are looking for this season— depth.
Elby finally made her debut for the Red Stars this weekend as a second half sub for Short in the 67th minute. “It was really exciting,” Elby said. “Not the first time I’ve put on the [Red Stars] jersey, but the first time I’ve really got out on the field and it just felt great. To have my debut here and get a win out of it is always a great feeling, especially a shutout as a defender so I think it was a really good day all around.”
With the second half of the NWSL season in full swin and several teams vying for points and potential playoff berths, points are becoming more precious as the season progresses. Before Sunday’s match, Chicago was on the outside looking in as far as the playoff race was concerned. After the weekend, they sit in fourth place, tied on points with the Orlando Pride in 3rd place.
Red Stars goalkeeperkeeper Alyssa Naeher recognizes the impact that Elby and others had in the 2-0 win against the Spirit. On what Elby can provide to the backline, Naeher says, “A lot of experience. Obviously Brooke hasn’t been here [Chicago] with us, but she’s been in Utah, been in this league, she brings that composure.”
The Red Stars have a tough week ahead of them. After playing Sunday evening, they’re going up against the league leaders North Carolina Courage. Chicago will end their week with a third match on Saturday in New Jersey against Sky Blue FC.
Elby recognizes the opportunity ahead of the team, saying, “I think a big part of the second half of the season is people are still sort of finding their rhythm.”
Explaining how she can help impact the team, she says, “There’s gonna be a lot of games in a short period of time and I think I can provide legs and I can be used wherever needed. I’m pretty versatile, so, I can come in where ever Rory sees fit.”
Elby is likely to see more time on the pitch for Chicago, considering the schedule ahead. She says she’s ready go if called upon. “We have 3 games in the next 7 days, we’re gonna need to rotate, and I think I’m here to fill any part that I need to.”
Although she’s only been with Chicago for a short time, Elby is trying to take the time to get to know her new city. “The city’s so big, so, it’s going to be fun. But I’ve done a few touristy things, and I’m doing the architecture tour, so gonna go explore a little bit.”
Best part of tonight's #CHIvWAS mixed zone came from new Red Star @BrookeLB93 who visited the John Hancock Observatory and "thought it was the Sears Tower." She hopes Chicagoans don't judge her.— Sandra (@SandHerrera_) July 2, 2018
Truthfully, she probably won over everyone for NOT referring to it as "Willis"#NWSL
Getting the first touches with a new team is important, and adapting to new team cultures takes time. But even in her debut, Elby credits the transition to her new teammates and coaches.
“The girls have been great. Rory has been great. It’s just adjusting to a new team. That’s always going to be hard at first, but I think I’m sort of finding my way now.”