A talented group of rookies will look to impact Red Stars future
CHICAGO, Ill. – The Red Stars have added a great amount of depth to their roster with seven draft picks in the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft, selecting Notre Dame defender Katie Naughton, DePaul defender Sarah Gorden, Kentucky midfielder Courtney Raetzman, Illinois forward Jannelle Flaws, Northern Colorado defender Adrienne Jordan, Missouri defender Candace Johnson and Arkansas forward Ashleigh Ellenwood.
The Red Stars entered the day with four picks, but came out with seven after a series of strategic draft-day trades. The Red Stars would first make a trade with the Boston Breakers, acquiring the 32nd and 35th picks in exchange for Chicago’s No. 27 pick. Immediately following the Red Stars would make a trade again, this time with Sky Blue FC. Chicago would acquire the 33rd and 36th draft picks from Sky Blue in exchange for the No. 29 spot.
The Red Stars’ first selection came in the second round with the nineteenth overall pick, where Chicago chose Katie Naughton. It is not hard to see why Naughton was one of the top picks on Head Coach Rory Dames’ list for the NWSL College Draft. Originally from the Chicagoland area, Naughton will now be playing in front of her home crowd as a professional.
“Being drafted is just an indescribable feeling,” said Naughton. “Being able to have the support of my family and friends by playing in Chicago is amazing. First year as a Red Stars pro is a huge new adventure, any up or downs I’ll have, I will be able to have my family and friends to lean on. I am ready to go. I have graduated from school. All my focus is on this next step and starting my professional career.”
Naughton’s attitude toward the future is exactly what you would hope for from a young and talented player. With season beginning in March, Nauhgton could not contain her excitement about getting started with the Red Stars. A strong center back, the 22 year-old now gets to train alongside U.S. International and Red Stars center back Julie Johnston.
“I am so excited to play with her; she is just such a talented player,” Naughton speaking of Johnston. “Julie will be a huge mentor that I cannot even image. I know the other prominent center back, Sam Johnson, will also help me out tremendously. I can’t wait to grow as a player and specifically a center back.”
A three-year captain at storied Notre Dame, Naughton started every single contest for the Fighting Irish. Listed as 5’10, not only is Naughton able to defend the best forwards, but was a major threat on set pieces for Notre Dame, totaling 11 goals in her career. Since 2009, Naughton has been a part of the U.S. National Youth teams, most recently with the U-20 team where she was a starter on the backline.
SARAH GORDEN (3rd round, 2nd pick)
The next draft pick was also a local product. From Elk Grove, Illinois, Sarah Gorden chose to stay close to home for college, where she played four years for DePaul University. Drafted 22nd overall, Gorden will be reunited with head coach Rory Dames, where she starred on Dames seven-time State Champion Eclipse Select club soccer team. A strong career at DePaul, Gorden was named to the 2014 and 2015 NSCAA All-Northeast Region Women’s Soccer First Team. A central defender, Gorden has a natural athletic ability that will help translate her game at the professional level.
COURTNEY RAETZMAN (4th round, 2nd pick)
Courtney Raetzman, the 32nd overall draft pick, was a member of the WPSL Chicago Red Stars in 2015 where she was able to display her talent as a midfielder to the Red Stars organization. Her talent did not go unnoticed in the league, as she was named to the WPSL All-Star Team.
“Being able to play for the team this past summer was really cool,” Raetzman said about played for the Reserves. I was able to be back home and I knew a lot of the girls on the team, either from Kentucky or previous club years, so it was a great environment. It allowed for some tough competition, but it was an overall enjoyable experience. It allowed me the chance to play where the full team practices every day, so I am sure it helped give me a good look by Rory.”
Starting in all 70 games that she appeared in at Kentucky, Raetzman was able to score 12 goals and 16 assists in her four years. In 2014, Raetzman joined fellow Red Star and Kentucky graduate Arin Gilliland on the list for First Team All-SEC and repeated the honor in 2015.
“Arin and I are good friends. We bonded throughout the years at Kentucky and also played in the W-League in Ottowa together. It gives me someone to look up to during preseason; she has been there, so I will definitely look to her for guidance.”
JANNELLE FLAWS (4th round, 3rd pick)
The 33rd overall pick brings Jannelle Flaws to the Red Stars from University of Illinois. Flaws left her mark at Illinois by becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in program history, totaling 54 goals during her career. With numerous accolades, including 2014 College Sports Madness First-Team All-American, Flaws will look to continue scoring at the professional level. Flaws was a member of the 2014 Red Stars Reserves where she was a major threat on the offensive half.
ADRIENNE JORDAN (4th round, 5th pick)
From Colorado, Adrienne Jordan finished her career at Northern Colorado as one of the top players in the program ever. The 2014 and 2015 Big Sky Defensive MVP has an obvious talent for defending in her final third, but also has a tremendous ability in becoming a part of the attack. A fast and skilled defender, Jordan uses the flank to create one-v-one opportunities and is not scared to take on the opposing team.
CANDACE JOHNSON (4th round, 6th pick)
A defender from Missouri, Johnson was picked 35th overall by the Red Stars. Johnson appeared in 80 matches in her four years, including playing in every minute in 74 games. In 2015 Johnson was named to the All-SEC First-Team and was a NSCAA All-South Region 2nd team selection. The Missouri standout led a defense that led the SEC in goal against average (0.78) and goal allowed (15).
ASHLEIGH ELLENWOOD (4th round, 9th pick)
Ellenwood comes to Chicago from the University of Arkansas, where she also left her mark in the record books. Second on Arkansas’ all-time assists list with 23, despite having a season ending injury just seven games into her senior season, Ellenwood is a forward that is a natural team player. Ellenwood finished her career as a Razorback with a total of 30 goals and 23 assists. A member of the WPSL Red Stars in 2015 she was named to the 2015 WPSL All-Star Team and now finds herself being drafted by the NWSL Red Stars.
This draft has a ton of connections, something that can help in the transition for the new rookies. Raetzman has played previously with fellow draftee Naughton in club, this past summer she teamed up with Ellenwood on the Red Stars Reserves team and was teammates with Gorden on a youth 4v4 indoor team. The connection between all the draft picks will grow even more as they enter their first year of professional soccer together as Red Stars.
Each player drafted will come into training camp in early March to compete for a spot on the Chicago Red Stars in hopes of earning a contract. The 2015 Red Stars team finished the best in team history and will look to continue on improving with this draft class.
The Red Stars would not be done at the draft though, as they would make one final trade with FC Kansas City. Chicago will send one of their international roster slots for the 2016 NWSL season in exchange for FCKC’s second round draft pick in the 2017 College Draft.
The 2016 NWSL schedule will be released in February with all Red Stars home games being played at Toyota Park. Season Tickets and Flex Packs can be purchased here or by calling 773-697-8699.