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CHICAGO – The Red Stars returned 17 players to compete in the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season, including second year defender, Katie Naughton.

After being drafted 19th overall in the 2016 NWSL College Draft, Naughton’s rookie season was a success, starting nine of 17 game appearances. Naughton, along with the rest of the defensive line, secured 1-0 shutout against Houston in the home opener, but for her, she is still working on transitioning from being a rookie player.

“I am aiming to become a more consistent player,” said Naughton. “Last season was an Olympic year, which allowed me to play in games when the National Team players were gone.  This year there are no major tournaments that take the national players away, so it is my goal to impact the game in such a way that I consistently see minutes throughout the season.”

One of five Red Stars from the greater Chicago area, Naughton grew up in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, and played collegiately at soccer powerhouse, Notre Dame. A native of the Midwest, Naughton is surrounded by her family and friends who have been there since the beginning.

“Having the opportunity to play in Chicago and represent the city I grew up in means the world to me,” said Naughton. “I have an amazing support system at home with my family and friends, which encourages me to pursue my dreams and to reach my goals.  There is definitely a sense of pride that comes with playing in front of your hometown and I am beyond grateful for those moments.”

For the first time in her playing career, Naughton left the Midwest and stepped out of her comfort zone, when herself, along with seven Chicago teammates, traveled to Australia to play for the Westfield W-League. She joined Red Stars midfielders Danielle Colaprico and Sofia Huerta with Adelaide United, using the experience to improve her strengths in the NWSL offseason and continue playing professional year round.

“My time in Australia allowed me to stay sharp during the offseason because I was playing in games and getting touches on the ball every day,” said Naughton. “I was also able to gain some confidence moving into the 2017 season because I competed against some of the top players in the NWSL that were also playing in Australia. Not to mention that the country itself was breath-taking, which didn’t suck.”

With the 2017 season well under way, Chicago sits in fourth place with three points. For Naughton and the Red Stars it’s all about getting to the playoffs for a third-consecutive year.

“The team goal for this season is to make the top 4 and qualify for playoffs, and from there to win the NWSL Championship,” said Naughton. “We are going to take it one game at a time and continue to get better each week as we learn from our mistakes and continue to expand upon our strengths. The team is deeper this year and creating the competitive environment day in and day out if only going to benefit us in the long run.”

Chicago will be live nationally on Lifetime’s Game of the Week on Saturday, April 29 at 3 p.m. CT, to take on Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park in Oregon. The Red Stars will play their second Game of the Week match immediately following on May 6 at 3 p.m. CT when they take on the Houston Dash. Tickets for May 6 are available here or by calling 773-697-8699.

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