Chicago Red Stars midfielder Nikki Stanton has only been in Chicago for a few months, but has already laced up in every game, scoped out where to find the best coffee in the city, and has adopted a dog.
Stanton was acquired by Chicago in a offseason three-team trade with Houston and Sky Blue. Stanton and forward Sam Kerr were traded from Sky Blue FC to Chicago. Stanton played form 2015-2017 with Sky Blue and spent all three NWSL offseasons with Perth Glory in Australia’s W-League. The North Bend, Washington-native’s good taste in coffee came from her three seasons in Australia and her love for dogs came from when she adopted a dog named Brooklyn while in New Jersey last year.
Soccer, coffee, dogs. What more could one need?
Ahead of the Red Stars trip to Seattle to play Seattle Reign FC on Saturday, May 19, NWSL Media got the chance to catch-up with Stanton before training.
Question: How has it been adjusting to life in Chicago?
Nikki Stanton: I have really enjoyed myself! I have never really lived in the city, so it has been a cool experience to be able to walk to any restaurant or coffee shop. It has been good. The girls have been really welcoming and I have learned so much since I’ve been here. It’s been really great and the facilities are awesome. I’m really happy.
Q: I know in one interview you said one thing you were most excited for in Chicago was seeing the river dyed green on St. Patricks Day! Did you get to see it?
Stanton: No! I didn’t and it is such a bummer. But, I think we were in Portland and I stayed an extra day because my family was there, so I missed the Green River! So I guess I just have to wait until next year, but I saw photos of it and it looked really cool, so maybe one day.
Q: Any other places or activities in Chicago you are loving?
Stanton: Honestly, the amount of places that there are to eat is so overwhelming and amazing. Literally whatever you’re in the mood for, you Google it and there is like 100 places within fives miles that are just that and it is just so awesome. Coming from kind of a suburbia area in New Jersey with not that many options, it has just been great. We already have a couple favorites that we go to a lot, but just the city lifestyle is different than anything I’m used to, so it has just been fun just to get to experience that.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Piper and your involvement with the Anti-Cruelty Society?
Last year in Jersey I reached out to the Monmouth County SPCA, because it is so nice to have a dog and I got linked up with them and we fostered this dog Brooklyn for seven months and I fell madly in love with this dog. It was the hardest goodbye, but she found a forever home and that kind of sparked that having a dog makes everything so much better. So here I looked up some shelters and found Anti-Cruelty. I went in looked at the dogs and it worked out because Piper was really struggling in the shelter and needed to get out ASAP, so I contacted them on Wednesday and they gave me her on Thursday! She has been awesome. We are just fostering her, trying to get her adopted, so hopefully she does soon. She’s a year and a half tiny pit bull. But it is really great because, one hand we get to help out the animals, but it also gives us something when we come home from training, even when we have a bad day or we lose a game, we come back and we have this animal that is happy to see us. So it is really something special and I’m really happy that we’re able to help out wherever we go with that, because it is kind of unrealistic for us to have our own dog, but when we have a foster dog it is more do-able. Right now, Sam Kerr and I are the ones that are fostering Piper, but some others are interested and may foster a cat!
Q: How has it been playing with Vanessa DiBernardo and Alyssa Mautz again?
Stanton: It is so good. You make all these friendships playing soccer and sometimes you never get the opportunity to be on a team again and kind of keep that friendship strong, so to be with them again, with [Alyssa] Mautz and [Vanessa DiBernardo] Nessy, and to see them, well they are both so great and I lived with both of them in Perth and now I live across the hallway from Mautz! It has just been awesome and all the amazing people you meet, but to be around them has also made the transition into Chicago much easier because I had these two really good friendships already made so that was easier than not knowing anyone coming in.
Q: What is something you miss the most about playing in Australia? Any habits or ways of living that you have brought over with you here to the states?
Stanton: Oh my gosh, probably the warm weather, it is so cold here. We played one game against Houston and it was probably 32 degrees and I was like, “Oh my gosh.” I really do miss the warm weather, the beaches, the breakfast and the coffee. The coffee there is probably the best in the world. Sam and I already have a few locals here that are cutting it close to Australian coffee.
Q: So your coffee standards are higher now I take it?
Stanton: I’ve definitely become a coffee snob. One-hundred percent. Actually one of our train-ons the other day introduced me to her boyfriend and goes “This is Nikki. She’s from Australia!” And I was like, “Wait, you know I’m not actually from Australia, right? We’ve been on the same team for two months honey!” And she goes, “Wait, where are you born?” America!
Q: Now to soccer! How do you think you’ve been playing this season?
Stanton: I think when I found out I was traded to Chicago I was really excited for a new experience. Obviously [I thought that] they have a stacked midfield, so coming into that, some of my family and friends were like, “You will get a chance, the chance will come.” And I think it has come earlier than I thought and I have been getting some playing time and been able to contribute to the team. So I like to think I’ve been able to take advantage of that. Coming into Chicago [head coach Rory Dames] kind of has a way that he wants to play and everyone is buying into it and I think that I am just trying to learn how he wants to play — like keeping the ball, facing and turning forward, switching the point of attack. Like I said, I have already learned so much from Rory and the assistant coaches and I think my game has already seen improvements in these last two months.
Q: What has been a challenge you’ve faced since joining the Red Stars?
Stanton: I think coming into a new team is always hard. Especially a team that has been together for so long that hasn’t had a lot of changes because they already have their group of friends, I was extremely nervous coming in. Again it was nice that I had Vanessa and Mautz and I used to train with Dani [Danielle] Colaprico when she would train with Sky Blue so that was good, but the first couple of weeks I was kind of like, “Wait, what do I do?” But overall it has been really good.
Q: Traveling to take on Seattle Reign FC this weekend – what has been the focus of training to prepare for them?
Stanton: I mean, going into any team this season you have to be super prepared. I think we’re going to go out and focus on our game and how we are trying to play and I think we are really close to what we are trying to accomplish, so we are just going to keep working towards that and hopefully it all comes together.
Q: What has been one of your favorite memories with your team so far?
Stanton: I think just hanging out with everyone. It’s a different group. I’ve been with the same group for the last five years, so any time we’re just hanging out — maybe playing Monopoly in the lobby of the preseason trip in Portland.
Q: Now how competitive does an NWSL team get playing Monopoly?!
Stanton: I’m like a really, really bad loser. So that doesn’t always go over well, so if I’m not winning, I’m not having fun. But really, I have been enjoying meeting all these new people because they all have their stories and how they got here and their soccer stories.