How does a third round draft pick describe what she can bring to an already crowded field of veteran defenders? The answer from Kayla Sharples sounds like something out of the mouth of a player ready to take on any challenge.
“I’m a very competitive person and I try my best for other players not to beat me one-on-one. I’m a very physical player as well. So, I will go into those tackles as hard as I can. Try to blow them up. Try to disrupt offensive movements and penetration passes.”
In a World Cup year where international players will be missing parts of the season, and a year where the league expanded the roster to include supplemental players, there is a small chance to make an impression.
“Just having that aggressive mentality is something that I pride myself on, and I know Chicago does that as well. So I’m just excited to continue that moving forward.”
From Jackie Santacaterina and Michele Wenino to Casey Short, and Arin Wright - the Chicago Red Stars are no strangers to a defensive culture on the team. Heading into 2019, Chicago bolstered an already solid defense by adding U.S. National Team Center Back Tierna Davidson with the number one pick in the 2019 NWSL Draft.
They also added Sharples to the mix of defenders competing for roster depth. Sharples heard her name called in the third round on Draft Day in Chicago.
With hometown ties as a Naperville native and Northwestern Wildcat, Sharples also played several seasons of club soccer with Eclipse Select. Despite the familiarity with Head Coach Rory Dames, she was surprised when selected.
“I was really lucky that the draft was in Chicago because I was able to go and it was such a unique experience. Going into it you have no idea, because it’s so difficult to get drafted, and I was not expecting it at all,” said Sharples.
“I really had no idea that it was going to be Chicago but at the end of the day I was very happy that it was [the Red Stars] so that I could stay home and be surrounded by my support system and my family.”
In The Shadows of Defense
With a strong defensive core in place with big names like Short, Wright, and Katie Naughton, Sharples is less intimidated by the big names and more about embracing the opportunity and using it as a learning experience to help develop her game.
“Just being next to Tierna Davidson or playing beneath Julie Ertz and just having them right off the bat with you, playing next to you, is motivation in itself because they are such great and talented players,” says Sharples. “They both have that defensive mindset of pressuring very quickly and they have the ability to disrupt offensive players, so I can [build] off that.”
Having already earned her first preseason start, against the Portland Thorns, while getting match minutes as a sub against Reign FC and the U23’s. Sharples continues to look ahead when facing the challenges that come her way.
In a team meeting with the Red Stars, Sharples shares that Dames is encouraging new players to make the most of their preseason tournament, to take risks and to take opportunities that might not happen later on down the road. She echoes the sentiment, and encourages herself as preseason comes to a close.
“Just having a good mindset going in, and saying that you are going to make some mistakes but just own those. Try to correct them, [and] have as big of an impact that you could on the field.”