Defender spent past five seasons with Chicago
CHICAGO, Illinois – Long-time Chicago Red Stars defender Jackie Santacaterina has announced her retirement from professional soccer, citing struggles to fully recover from injury over the past year. The 26-year-old, who was originally drafted by the Red Stars, has been a member of the team for a period stretching across five years and four different leagues.
Santacaterina came close to ending her career when she required hip surgery after the 2013 season but decided to give it one more try and prepare for another NWSL campaign. While the former University of Illinois star accumulated 13 appearances and 9 starts over the course of 2014, her decision solidified itself during a lengthy offseason break.
“I just didn’t really get the urge to train and compete at that high level again,” she said. “My body was telling me it was time.”
After playing for the Red Stars in WPS, WPSL and WPSL-Elite, Santacaterina was re-acquired by her long-time club via the NWSL Supplemental Draft in 2013. The native of Geneva, Illinois, is proud to have been part of the team during the first two seasons of a league so many hope will continue to flourish and provide fans with world-class women’s soccer for many years to come.
“When WPS folded, we weren’t sure if there would ever be a professional league again, so being on the first Red Stars team in the NWSL means a lot,” Santacaterina offered. “Everyone from the players to the coaches and the front office will always be very dear to me, because all of them have worked so hard to make this league stick. Hopefully, one day I can look back and say I was part of the early years and helped pave the way a bit.”
The five-year professional defender has a special bond with current Red Stars Head Coach Rory Dames that dates back to when she first played for youth club Eclipse Select as a teenager. Dames has served as the Eclipse Select Director of Coaching and Player Development since 1996.
“Rory has played a very important role in my career,” Santacaterina acknowledged. “I’ve known him since I was 14 and to this day we have a great relationship. I still work with his youth club team and have no doubt that we’ll keep in contact, so it’s good to know that side of it won’t be lost. But it was definitely hard to tell him that I was retiring. It’s been fantastic being coached by him and being able to learn so much.”
The sentiment was echoed by Dames.
“I am grateful that I’ve been able to be a part of Jackie’s soccer career for as long as I have,” Dames offered. “She is one of the best leaders I have ever been around. Her willingness to put the team above all else and constant encouragement of her team-mates will be missed.”
Given Santacaterina’s outgoing, likeable personality, the meaningful relationships she has built over the course of her career extend well beyond team-mates and coaches to front office staff and members of the community.
“Jackie has represented this club perfectly during her career through sheer hard work, perseverance, and determination,” said General Manager of the Red Stars, Alyse LaHue. “She evolved into a crucial piece of the organization both on and off the field, with team leadership, a never-give-up attitude and community involvement. We know she’ll remain close to the club and continue to be a part of our family.”
After sharing a moment of sentimentality, Santacaterina, who plans to focus on growing her own sports performance company, emphatically confirmed.
“I don’t think I want to be too close to the team-bonding process during preseason,” she admitted. “It would just be too difficult to have to watch and not be a part of. But I’ll definitely be watching Red Stars games from the stands as the team’s number one supporter.”
The Chicago Red Stars 2015 NWSL campaign kicks off in April. Season tickets start at $125 and may be purchased by calling 773-697-8699 or by clicking here.