Michele Vasconcelos was in Brazil watching the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Draft on TV when the Chicago Red Stars selected her. After an ACL injury and five years at Brigham Young University, she was excited to join her new teammates after she and her husband Pedro finished their trip.
Life, however gave her an unexpected gift before she could begin her professional career.
“So, I got drafted and a week later I was starting to feel kind of sick,” Vasconcelos said. “I figured it was just being in Brazil and being in a different culture, different food, stuff like that. And then we ended up feeling sick so we did a pregnancy test, and what do you know? Little baby Scarlett. So that’s why I had to delay my last year.”
Vasconcelos gave birth to her daughter, Scarlett, and her occupation for the year changed from professional soccer player to loving mother. The Red Stars and head coach Rory Dames gave her their full support and in her rookie season in 2018, she has been ready to contribute while being a mom to one of the team’s youngest fans.
“It’s been a big learning year for me, especially being back off of pregnancy,” she said. “I’ve been injured before but pregnancy is definitely something a lot different that I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve tried to be patient with myself this year, even though it’s been a little hard just because I’m like ‘I should be doing this and this’ but with the team being so patient with me as well it’s been a really fun year and I still feel whether I’m starting the game or subbing in I have a long ways to go, but that’s just the nature of the game.”
As a rookie this season Vasconcelos was a key figure on a Red Stars team depleted with injuries early on in the season. She has played 19 games this season, starting in 10 of them. Her first professional appearance was in a familiar place; her hometown of Sandy, Utah and the state where Vasconcelos played college soccer and met her husband Pedro.
“He played on the men’s team at BYU,” she said. “Initially he started taking me out for like a month and I thought we were just hanging out, he was trying to date me and I starting dating one of his teammates after that, so that did not go over well. So I dated one of his teammates for about four months and then Pedro and I started talking, and it had been about eight months to a year that we were just talking and really close, good friends. And we finally started dating and then got married a year later.”
Together Michele and Pedro balance work life and parenting Scarlett, who often makes appearances at Toyota Park and Red Stars practice much to the delight of Vasconcelos and her teammates.
“I love having her at practice,” Vasconcelos said. “When I’d leave her home, because Pedro would work and watch her, it was kind of stressful because I was always in a hurry. But it’s so fun to be able to come and in between movement prep and after practice get to see her right away and see her around Toyota Park and the things that I love and getting to see what I love to do as well.”
It’s a common sight to see Scarlett at Toyota Park wrapped around her mom’s arms after a game. Along with Pedro she watches from a family suite, where she recently watched her mom score her first professional goal against Sky Blue FC on September 4. Vasconcelos isn’t shy to discuss the added dimension of being a mother combined with the life of a pro athlete, but she also knows it’s an opportunity to give her daughter something special.
“As far as being a role model for her it’s crazy because I feel like now I look at the role models that are out there and I’m sure, yes there are a lot of great role models, but there’s also a lot of not great role models,” she said. “So it makes me want to be even better not just for her, but for all the fans and little girls and boys too that play for just because I think people need someone in the world to look up to who is wholesome and just has values and stick to their values. So, I hope I can teach Scarlett to be like that as well. I just want to be the best mother and also role model that I can be fore her.”
A rookie consistently getting better as the season continues, Vasconcelos wants nothing more than to be the best player and mom she can and feels the Red Stars is the perfect setting to achieve her goals.
“I love the Chicago Red Stars,” she said. “It’s an awesome organization and it’s been fun to come in not really knowing at all what to expect and my first time being out of Utah as well. My husband and I love Chicago, the city and we’re actually outside of the city in Naperville so we love that as well. Just being able to come to practice everyday with all these talented girls who compete every single day and they make me better and Rory also pushing as well has been a really good challenge, but I love it here.”