Part 2: Local Rookies on the Journey to Play for their Hometown Crowd
Chicago, Ill. – As the Chicago Red Stars get ready for the 2016 season, we’re celebrating all of the Red Stars veterans and rookies who hail from around Chicagoland.
In the second part of this two-part story (click here for Part 1 about our local veterans), we take a look at the most recent Red Stars who were drafted during the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft. These four players are in the middle of the journey to live out their dream playing professional soccer in the NWSL. The next five weeks will determine how those dreams turn into reality.
Over the next 5 weeks, the Chicago Red Stars will go through training camp with 30 different players competing for a spot on the final 20 player roster. Week after week in preseason each rookie will put her heart into drills, scrimmages, and exhibitions looking to earn a chance to wear the Red Stars uniform competing against the best players in the world. The added bonus? If successful, they will get to do this in front of their hometown crowd at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.
Meet 4 local Red Stars: Janelle Flaws, Sarah Gorden, Katie Naughton and Courtney Raetzman…they are truly your Chicago (born & raised) Red Stars rookies!
Janelle Flaws, from Glenbrook, played her youth days with ELA Elite, where she won multiple state titles and a Region II title in 2007. The Glenbrook South High School graduate would continue her career in-state at University of Illinois. A standout at Illinois, Flaws left the program setting the all-time record in career goals with 56.
“To be drafted and given the opportunity to continue to play at the next level is something I’ve wanted for a very long time. Not only do I get to do that, but I get to do that at home, surrounded by my family and friends; it’s an incredible feeling.”
Sarah Gorden will once again have the opportunity to play for Red Stars head coach Rory Dames. A former youth player for Dames during her club soccer days on Eclipse Select, Gorden comes to the Red Stars after playing at DePaul University.
The Elk Grove native had an outstanding career at DePaul earning back-to-back NSCAA All-Northeast Region First Team honors in 2014 and 2015. The first ever women’s soccer player to be drafted out of DePaul, Gorden will look to continue on with this success in 2016 at the professional level.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Gorden commenting on being drafted by the Red Stars, continuing, “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
The first pick for the Red Stars in the 2016 draft came with the nineteenth overall pick and Chicago chose Katie Naughton, a native of Elk Grove Village.
Her youth career was filled with accolades playing for Sockers FC, ultimately become the top recruit in the Midwest region for her class along with a five-star ranking. Those rankings proved to be beyond accurate as Naughton would become the University of Notre Dame’s first three-year captain in program history. (Note, Naughton and the Red Stars will travel to Notre Dame for an exhibition game against the Irish on April 6th at 6pm. Click here for ticket info)
“For some of us, we grew up playing together, so it is like it came full circle. We are able to play together once more, but at another level. It is where almost every girl (playing soccer) dreams about growing up. It is just exciting to play professionally with girls from the same hometown.”
Keeping it local once again in the 2016 draft, Courtney Raetzman heard her name called in the fourth-round, 32nd-overall, by the Red Stars. A local talent who is originally from Elk Grove and played her youth career for Sockers FC, Raetzman is eager to return to her roots.
The First Team All-SEC member will join up with fellow Wildcat Arin Gilliland in Chicago, where both had standout careers at University of Kentucky. Raetzman strives under pressure and proved that with multiple game-winning goals against top 25 teams throughout her 70 starts as a collegiate athlete. During summer of 2015, Raetzman was also a key member to the Chicago Red Stars Reserves, who recently won the 2015 WPSL National Title.
All four Chicagoland players are ready to kick-off next week when practices officially begin for the 2016 NWSL season. These four rookies have been teammates, rivals and friends over the years as they grew as players in the Chicagoland area. Now, they’re looking forward to earning a chance to play for you, their hometown fans!
Don’t miss out on the action. Get out to Toyota Park to root on the Red Stars as a whole, and Chicago’s Red Stars specifically, as these local rookies and veterans take on the best players in the world in the National Women’s Soccer League. For complete ticket information to see them all play at Toyota Park this year, simply click here or just call 773-697-8699.