Continuing to leave their mark as one of the youngest teams in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the Chicago Red Stars remained focused on the Championship title from day one.
The previous two seasons, Chicago earned their rightful spot in the semifinals, but were unable to advance after the first round.
Despite the unfortunate postseason match this season, the Red Stars showed multiple leaps and bounds as they paved way for their future in Chicago.
During the NWSL College Draft, head coach Rory Dames made strategic moves for the 2017 season and the future.
The first sign of Chicago’s presence in the draft came in back-to-back picks of Brigham Young forward Michele Vasconcelos and Marquette defender Morgan Proffitt, 11th and 12th respectively. Dames finished his selections with the second-to-last pick, drafting UCLA midfielder Lauren Kaskie.
Before the season unfolded, Vasconcelos would not play her rookie season with Red Stars due to her pregnancy with her husband. Both Proffitt and Kaskie earned a spot on the final 20-player roster that resulted in first-year contracts for both players.
Chicago was invited to the Thorns Spring Invitational, hosted in Portland and would spend a week training for the upcoming season on the west coast. The first match saw the Red Stars fall 1-0 to Portland, but saw a lot of the new players receive plenty of action in one of the top environments in the league. The next match, Chicago defeated Houston 2-1 off a Christen Press brace. The Red Stars finished the preseason tournament with a scoreless draw against the U.S. Under-23 Women’s National Team.
Ahead of the season opener, Chicago ended their preseason matches against Notre Dame, earning a 3-1 win with goals by Summer Green, Arin Gilliland and Fighting Irish alum, Katie Naughton.
Just as the season opener the year before, Chicago began the season with a rocky start, falling to Houston, 2-0. The Red Stars continued its home opener winning streak by defeating FC Kansas City 1-0 on home soil.
Chicago found its stride early in the season, earning a 5-0-2 record between May 6 – June 25. After a road loss in Seattle, Chicago went on another five-game undefeated streak. During this time, Chicago steadily coveted the second-place position in the league, earning the first place spot for one week of play.
The Red Stars found an end to their undefeated streak at home with three-straight losses in eight days.
Unlike prior season, Chicago didn’t clinch a spot in the Playoffs until Week 23 of play, defeating Houston for one of the final two spots. The season closer saw Chicago on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat in Portland, as Sofia Huerta notched the only Red Stars goal.
Chicago finished the regular season with a 11-7-6 record, tallying 33 goals and conceding 30.
For the third-straight season, the Red Stars found themselves in the Playoffs, joining the likes of FC Kansas City and Washington Spirit being the only teams to have reached the feat.
With the regular season-closing loss, Chicago finished in fourth place, ready to take on first-place North Carolina in the Semifinals. After an unfortunate last-minute goal from Denise O’Sullivan, the Courage earned their first victory against Chicago to advance to the Championship.
Heading into 2018, the Chicago Red Stars have already secured all contracts from the current roster. The Red Stars currently have seven picks in the 2018 NWSL College Draft, including one first-round pick and three second-round picks. A 2017 draftee, Vasconcelos is eager to suit up for Chicago after missing her rookie season due to the birth of her first child.
The team will continue to build as Chicago pursues an NWSL Championship in 2018.