Red Stars captain goes out on World Cup triumph, first ever NWSL playoff appearance
By Gunnar Berndt
Chicago, Ill. – Four-year Chicago Red Stars captain Lori Chalupny today announced her retirement from professional club soccer. The step comes six weeks after the defender-midfielder played in her final match for the U.S. Women’s National Team and five months after winning her first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup. Chalupny also led the Red Stars to a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) postseason appearance this past September, the club’s first at the pro level.
“For a lot of the last couple of years, I was just trying to stay in the moment and take it day by day,” explained the St. Louis native. “That said, I had a pretty good idea of my decision by the end of this past NWSL campaign. After the World Cup, I wanted to let all the buzz about it play out and get back to normalcy a bit to see where I was at. So I definitely took a lot of time to think about it and came to a decision that I’ve felt really good about during this offseason. That’s why I’m ready to announce it.
“After winning the Word Cup, which was something I had dreamt about my whole life, it was tough to come off that high and continue. At the same time, I have some chronic injuries and things I’ve been dealing with for a while now, and my body was simply telling me that it was time. To be honest, those two factors coming together made the decision a lot easier.”
The Chicago fan favorite looks back on a career that saw her participate in the 2007 and 2015 World Cups, win Olympic gold in 2008 and make a triumphant return to the Stars and Stripes squad in December 2014, following half a decade away. After earning her 100th international cap back in May and lifting the most coveted of trophies in July, Chalupny reunited with Chicago to complete her final season with the club that she joined during its amateur days in the 2012 edition of the Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite (WPSL Elite).
Said the long-time Red Stars captain, “This year has truly been a whirlwind, from getting back onto the national team and winning the World Cup to coming back to the Red Stars and making the NWSL playoffs. With all that coming together, it just feels like my career is complete and has a period to it. I guess there’s just a bit of closure now, which makes this a good time to go out.”
Following the collapse of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) in 2012, Chalupny preferred temporarily playing unpaid for Chicago to continuing her pro career abroad. Ever since then, she has been Head Coach Rory Dames’ undisputed right hand on the field.
“Lori has won at the highest level and is a fantastic player, leader and ambassador for soccer,” offered the man in charge of the Red Stars. “Over the years, she has done so much for the game and for this organization. When she joined us, that added instant credibility to the Red Stars and the WPSL Elite, and she has been the face of the team ever since. On a personal level, I owe her my gratitude because she helped me grow leaps and bounds as a coach during the time we spent together.
“Lori’s leadership is certainly what we’ll miss the most going forward. It’s truly been a privilege coaching her and having her as our captain. She will always be a part of the Red Stars family and we wish her nothing but the best as she enters the next chapter of her life.”
After starring for the University of North Carolina and graduating in 2005, Chalupny laced up for WPS outfits St. Louis Athletica (2009-10) and Atlanta Beat (2010-11). She also enjoyed a brief stint abroad with Swedish top tier side AIK Fotboll Dam following the 2012 campaign with the Red Stars.
In reflecting on her highly successful career, the now 31-year-old didn’t focus primarily on her participation in two World Cups, nor on winning Olympic gold or even this summer’s World Cup trophy.
“Championships are what you play for, but I think those moments are kind of fleeting,” she said. “They’re really exciting for a while and then the excitement wears off and time goes on. What really sticks with you are the friendships and relationships. To this day, one of my favorite seasons of playing soccer was our amateur year in 2012 because of the people that I was around and because of how we bonded over playing the game we loved. That’s just one of the reasons Chicago holds a special place in my heart.”
Chalupny is one of four Red Stars left over from the club’s WPSL Elite campaign, the others being Michelle Lomnicki, Alyssa Mautz and Vanessa DiBernardo. As one of the team’s longest-tenured players, she will vehemently disagree with anyone claiming it’s impossible to simultaneously love both the Windy City and her hometown of St. Louis.
“Chicago really feels like a second home to me,” she said. “I’ve grown so close to the coaching staff, the owner, the fans and so many of the players and front office members that it feels like I’ve been here my whole career. While I know it’s the right time to go, what does make it difficult is saying goodbye to all the fantastic people, to the amazing fans and to the city of Chicago. I’ll be eternally grateful for the wonderful years I’ve had here and will miss everybody tremendously.
“My connection to the Red Stars runs much deeper than just that of a former player. I’m good friends with so many people connected to the organization that it’s impossible for me not to stay emotionally invested. Even though I won’t be suiting up anymore, of course I’ll continue to cheer on the team and I’m sure I’ll be back sooner or later to check in and say hello to everyone.”
One front office member who has been there with Chalupny since the WPSL Elite days is Alyse LaHue. The Red Stars General Manager left no doubt that adapting to life without the team’s hard-nosed U.S. international will be a challenging task.
“Lori is irreplaceable,” LaHue offered. “She’s been our captain and rock for four years. It’s rare to find her combination of tenacity, flexibility on the field, quiet leadership and humility. She truly represents what we strive for as a club: teamwork, grit, community and kindness.
“While I regret we didn’t send Lori out as league champion, she had the opportunity to end her career on her terms as a world champion. She’ll go down as one of the greatest players to ever wear a Red Stars jersey and it’s impossible to express how much we’ll miss her. When we win a championship, it will be in part because of the foundation she built and the legacy she leaves behind.”
As for possible future endeavors, Chalupny says she has enjoyed her side gig as an assistant coach with Maryville University in St. Louis and could see herself pursuing a related career path. When asked whether she may find it difficult watching high-level soccer and no longer being able to actively participate, the Chicago legend closed her remarks by emphasizing once more that she is at peace with all the decisions she has made over the course of her professional life, including this latest one.
“I guess I’ll see what I’m feeling after some time goes by, but right now I’m just really in a good place,” she said. “I’m happy with how my career went and have no regrets. I still love soccer and would love to stay involved in the game.”
The Chicago Red Stars look to honor the legacy of newly retired long-time captain Lori Chalupny by bringing the 2016 NWSL trophy home to Chicagoland. Season tickets may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 773-697-8699.