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Head Coach Dames looks to make playoffs in third NWSL campaign

By Gunnar Berndt

CHICAGO, Ill. – While NWSL fans across the country are suffering through offseason withdrawal, Chicago Head Coach Rory Dames and his staff have been a busy bunch, keeping tabs on their players, scouting potential new signings and otherwise preparing for the upcoming campaign. Dames recently provided a run-down of his activities and game plan as he looks to lead the team into next year’s playoffs.

In addition to monitoring the rehab progress of injury-recovering striker Zakiya Bywaters, the Red Stars coaches have kept an eye on the training regiments of local players. But Dames and his staff aren’t losing sight of their out-of-market players either. While defenders Abby Erceg, Samantha Johnson and Taryn Hemmings recently wrapped up loan stints with Germany’s Jena, Australia’s Sydney and Denmark’s Hjorring, respectively, others have chosen to keep fit on their own.

“We’re very much involved and in touch with all the girls during the offseason,” the man in charge of the Red Stars said. “All the non-national-teamers send me updates every Sunday night or Monday morning on their progress from the previous week. For example, Sam and Taryn were sending me updates with what they had done at training, along with game reports. All of the other non-national-teamers have been sending me updates on their training programs so I can add things or tweak them if I so choose.”

Dames’ determination to continue improving the team also has him spending a considerable amount of time scouting and on the phone.

“We’ve been watching a lot of college games and talking to college coaches and national team coaches in trying to get their perspectives on players that we may draft or that could be free agents if they don’t get drafted,” said the Chicago Head Coach.

The 2015 NWSL College Draft will be held on January 16 in Philadelphia, Penn., with the Red Stars in a great position to add some standout talent, as they hold the 5th, 8th, 23rd, 27th and 32nd overall picks. The club certainly wouldn’t mind an additional boost on the field. After a heartbreaking photo-finish saw captain Lori Chalupny and company miss this year’s postseason on the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Washington Spirit, Head Coach Dames is intent on getting his group ready and hungry for a playoff berth.

“We’re already working on setting and finalizing our preseason schedule,” he said. “That means determining who we’re going to play and making sure we get the right games and training rituals.”

Despite the 2014 acquisitions of U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year finalist Christen Press and Canadian international Melissa Tancredi, Chicago native Dames believes in strategic development as a primary source of success.

“Early on we made a decision to go young, build through the draft and aim for consistency in our roster,” he explained. “A decent number of players were already with us back in the 2012 WPSL-Elite season, so this will be their fourth year playing together. For Jen (Hoy), Zakiya (Bywaters), Taylor (Vancil) and Rach (Quon), whom we drafted before the first NWSL season, this will be their third year together.”

Dames is optimistic the club and its fans may be able to reap the benefits of this long-term strategy during the upcoming campaign.

“It’s been a gradual process and we’ve gotten a little bit better each year,” he said. “Our roster will be one of the most consistent going into the year. There’s not going to be a lot of turnover or change, because for us it’s less a matter of bringing in better players than of our players continuing to grow and improve. Hopefully that improvement can take us over the edge and into the playoffs.”

The 2015 Chicago Red Stars campaign kicks off in the spring. Early-bird season tickets are on sale through January 1 and start at $125. They may be purchased by calling 773-697-8699 or by clicking here.

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