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Red Stars announce big roster changes in end-of-season trades

Julie Ertz, Sarah Gorden, Katie Johnson, Makenzy Doniak, and Nikki Stanton all left for clubs on the West Coast.

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The NWSL season may have just ended a week and a half ago, but the off-season is already well underway for the Chicago Red Stars. With two new expansion teams from California joining the league, there will be an expansion draft in two weeks, and the NWSL College Draft will follow shortly after. While the Red Stars have begun their search for a new head coach following the resignation of Rory Dames, they have also made some huge trades to some key players which will change the way the whole team looks.

Julie Ertz and Sarah Gorden

As part of an intriguing trade with the Los Angeles-based expansion team Angel City FC, the Red Stars parted ways with longtime captain Julie Ertz and another leader in the team, defender Sarah Gorden. Angel City also received an international slot for next season, though the Red Stars have proven to be not been too intent on using those over the last few seasons anyway. In exchange, the Red Stars only received assurance that Angel City would not pick up any of their players in the Expansion Draft.

Though Ertz missed all but 29 minutes of this past season due to injury, she has been a key contributor since she was drafted out of Santa Clara in 2014. Over eight years in Chicago, she made 79 appearances, while winning two World Cups at the international level.

Sarah Gorden is a Chicago-area native so it might come as a surprise that she seeked out a move elsewhere. She also moves out to Los Angeles after making 88 appearances for the Red Stars. As she is one of the leaders of the Red Stars and was a defender of the year candidate last season, this is a huge loss for the Red Stars.

Both Ertz and Gorden will join their former Red Stars team mate Christen Press at Angel City. Those three are currently the only three players on their roster, which will be filled out over the coming weeks and months. Angel City will presumably becoming one of the most attractive clubs in the league, combining it’s LA location with high-profile owners such as Mia Hamm, Natalie Portman, and Becky G, and could become a title contender very quickly if they get the rest of their roster build right.

Katie Johnson, Makenzy Doniak, and Kelsey Turnbow

In addition to two key starters, the Red Stars also traded some important depth pieces. Katie Johnson and Makenzy Doniak were both moved to another California expansion team, the San Diego Wave. The Red Stars also traded Kelsey Turnbow, a draft pick out of Santa Clara, to San Diego. The Red Stats received expansion draft protection, plus some allocation money, in exchange.

Both Johnson and Doniak are natives of Southern California; Johnson is from Monrovia and Doniak is from Chino Hills. Both asked for a move back to their home state with the new teams coming into the league next season. Johnson was acquired by the Red Stars via a trade in 2019 and has played 40 times, mostly as an option off the bench, while also appearing for the Mexican National Team. Doniak only spent two years in Chicago, scoring two goals in 13 regular season appearances.

Nikki Stanton

The third and final trade that was made saw the Red Stars trade midfielder Nikki Stanton to OL Reign. Stanton joined the Red Stars as part of the historic trade for Sam Kerr in 2018, and has since made 53 appearances in Chicago. She returns to her home state of Washington in exchange for a third round draft pick.

What now?

From the Red Stars perspective, the trade with Angel City appears to not make a lot of sense; two key starters leave the team with very little coming the other way. The team is yet to hire a coach, and with big holes to fill in the near future that search should be completed in the next couple weeks.

The Red Stars still have some of the top players in the league, such as Mal Pugh, Tierna Davidson, and Morgan Gautraut, who will likely serve as the core for next year’s group. Many new names will come in, and they will have big shoes to fill with the likes of Ertz and Gorden leaving. With the head coach and some of the faces of the franchise making way, it is safe the say that a new era in the history of the Red Stars is about to begin.