Attacker playing “best season” since joining the club nearly four years ago
By Gunnar Berndt
Chicago, Ill. – As part of our series of sit-downs with current Red Stars who were with the club during its amateur days in the 2012 Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite (WPSL Elite), this time we shine the spotlight on midfielder-forward Alyssa Mautz. The 26-year-old, who, according to Head Coach Rory Dames, is playing “her best season” since joining the team, discussed her early days in Chicago, her special relationship with the Red Stars, and her desire to make amends for the heartbreak suffered in the 2012 WPSL Elite final.
Mautz was a star at Texas A&M University and was originally drafted into Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) by Sky Blue FC for the 2011 campaign, during which she made five appearances, including two starts. However, she would not get a chance to improve on those numbers with the New-Jersey-based outfit, as WPS subsequently folded, forcing all of its players to head abroad, end their careers, or find unpaid playing opportunities. Mautz chose the latter, joining her current club for the 2012 season of the WPSL Elite, a high-level amateur competition featuring sides from the East Coast and the Midwest.
Like so many others, the former U-23 U.S. international was making significant sacrifices to stay involved in her sport and help keep women’s soccer alive in North America. During her first year in Chicago, Mautz was living with General Manager Alyse LaHue and current team captain and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion Lori Chalupny, all in the interest of making ends meet while the trio was without an income.
“I was having mixed views about (the situation surrounding women’s soccer),” admitted the dynamic attacker. “At the time, I hadn’t been out of school for too long and was in the middle of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. The Red Stars opportunity guided me toward what I loved, which is to play soccer. I was very thankful for the chance to come here and continue my career while hoping for another pro league to start. It was a very good transition for me and came at the perfect time.”
Things nearly went ideally for Mautz and company in 2012, as the Red Stars made the postseason, where they defeated fellow former WPS outfit Boston Breakers 3-1 in a one-leg semifinal away from home. The club then held a 1-0 lead in the final against another ex-WPS outfit, Western New York Flash, courtesy of an Ashleigh Ellenwood strike just before intermission, only to concede a crushing equalizer at the hands of defender Toni Pressley in second-half stoppage time. After a goalless extratime period, the penalty shootout had more heartbreak in store for Chicago, which ended up falling by a final score of 5-3.
Days after helping her side clinch its first ever National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) playoff berth with a draw against the opponent from the 2012 WPSL Elite final, Western New York, Mautz has her sights firmly set on redemption.
“We were so close back then and not winning it sucked so bad,” she said in her trademark honest tone. “I remember walking off the field and being like, ‘Wow, we worked so hard for that and basically had it sealed, and then we came up short after all. I can’t believe it.’ To lose the way we did on PKs was just the worst. If we could make it back to a championship game this year, that would definitely be awesome. The adrenaline rush of having everything on the line makes it such a an amazing experience, and having that again after the 2012 final would make it even more special.”
Having gone through thick and thin with her team as one of Chicago’s longest-tenured players, Missouri native Mautz has developed a close attachment to the club and the region since first arriving four years ago.
“The Red Stars definitely mean a lot to me,” she offered in closing her remarks. “It feels good to know that I have a home base here and a hometown club, despite not actually being from Chicago. We have a core group of players who are willing to give it their all for each other, and it’s very rewarding to be a part of that.”
With the 2015 NWSL postseason fast approaching, Alyssa Mautz and her mates look to gain momentum when they hit the road for a rematch with Western New York Flash on August 29. Chicago’s massive season finale is on September 6 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, as the club hosts superstar Carli Lloyd and Houston Dash. Tickets for all Red Stars matches may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-698-6001.