Each day leading up to the start of the season, we’ll take a look at what 2017 has in store for two teams.
Monday: Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars
Tuesday: Boston Breakers and FC Kansas City
Wednesday: Seattle Reign FC and Sky Blue FC
Thursday: Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage
Friday: Portland Thorns FC and Orlando Pride
A solid defense and pair of dazzling options in attack was a recipe for success last season for the Chicago Red Stars as the club reached the NWSL Playoffs for the second consecutive year. That side remains almost entirely intact heading into the 2017 season and coach Rory Dames and his players will be aiming for a third straight trip to the postseason.
2016 totals (with rank)
Overall record: 9-5-6, 33 pts (3rd place)
Goals for: 24 (tied for 6th)
Goals against: 20 (tied for 2nd)
Home record: 5-1-4 (tied for 4th)
Away record: 4-4-2 (tied for 4th)
Christen Press (8 goals)
Julie Ertz (12 appearances, 1,080 minutes)
Alyssa Naeher (1.00 GAA, 43 saves)
Casey Short (2 goals, 20 appearances)
Sofia Huerta (7 goals, 2 assists)
The Chicago Red Stars return one of the most impressive and complete cores in the league – headlined by U.S. internationals Christen Press, Julie Ertz (Johnston), Alyssa Naeher and Casey Short.
Press has been nothing short of dominant since her league debut – racking up an NWSL Second XI selection in 2014 before back-to-back NWSL Best XI selections in 2015 and 2016 – while Ertz and Short were part of a backline in front of Naeher that was tied for the No. 2 defense in the league last season.
In addition to Press, the Red Stars will look to forward Sofia Huerta to provide the impetus up top as the pair combined to score 15 of the club’s 24 goals last year – propped up by seven assists from midfielder and 2016 NWSL Second XI member Vanessa DiBernardo.
Chicago’s possession game saw them rank second in the league having led in matches for 606 minutes last season and coach Rory Dames will be looking for his side to see that translate into more goals in 2017 after finishing 2016 tied for sixth with 24 tallies.
The Red Stars enjoyed one of the most stable offseasons in the league that saw little change on their roster. The closest thing the squad had to a new addition is forward Stephanie McCaffrey, who the team picked up last season in a trade with the Boston Breakers shortly before the 2016 trade deadline. McCaffrey was drafted by Chicago in 2015 and dealt to Boston in a draft-day trade before eventually returning to the Red Stars last year where she scored two goals in six appearances for her new club.
Round 2, 11th overall: Michele Vasconcelos (M, BYU)
Round 2, 12th overall: Morgan Proffitt (D, Marquette)
Round 4, 39th overall: Lauren Kaskie (M, UCLA)
With an offense and defense stocked with U.S. internationals, the Red Stars opted to take BYU midfielder Michele Vasconcelos with the No. 11 overall selection in the 2017 NWSL College Draft before picking up Marquette defender Morgan Proffitt with the very next pick.
Vasconcelos will have to wait until 2018 for her NWSL debut after announcing in February that she is pregnant with her first child with her husband, Pedro.
Meanwhile, the Red Stars have been pleased with what they have seen from Proffitt during the preseason – particularly her tactical sense on defense and a versatility that could also see her feature out wide in the midfield. She played two years with the Red Stars Reserves in the Women’s Premier Soccer League and was part of the team that won the 2015 WPSL championship.