June 1, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
Red Stars built team from Chicagoland
Putting together the 2012 Chicago Red Stars, who kick off their home season on Sunday, included a master plan to get as many local players on the roster as possible.
|Chicago Red Stars midfielder Lori Chalupny during training this week.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Red Stars
"I think we tried to pull as many of the top local products as we could, and from there we branched out like Lori (Chalupny) and Alyssa (Mautz) from a regional standpoint," said Red Stars coach Rory Dames.
"I would say that we started off within the Chicagoland area, and branched out through the Midwest," Dames explained of the roster's makeup.
"But the reality of it is, in order to get people to the games, there needs to be some sort of invested interest, so the more local players that we could put on the team that could perform at a high level, the better."
The Red Stars have pulled in several former WPS Red Stars players, like Julianne Sitch and Michele Weissenhofer. But the team's roster also has been strengthened considerably by adding WPS veterans like Chalupny, who is a former member of the U.S. National Team, as well as former Golden Domers Lauren Fowlkes and Jennifer Buczkowski, who were teammates on the Philadelphia Independence last year.
"Any time you bring in someone experienced like Jen Buczkowski, she's won the WPS title, she was in the First XI for the WPS, she brings a different level of understanding and professionalism to the group," said Dames.
While the Red Stars have started off at 2-0, Dames says they have yet to truly gel.
"We just got a majority of the players back about a week ago, so we are probably a little behind some teams, and probably in the same category as a few of the others.
"It will take us a few weeks to figure out the right personnel to be on the field together and for those players to get used to each other. But I do think when we get into July and have been together for a month and formed some sort of continuity that we'll have a good group that can play an exciting, attack- oriented brand of soccer."
This is the second season the Red Stars are part of the Women's Premier Soccer League, after dropping out of Women's Professional Soccer following the 2010 season. With the demise of the WPS, the WPSL set up an Elite league featuring eight teams, three of them former WPS franchises. In addition to the Red Stars, the Western New York Flash and Boston Breakers joined the WPSL Elite. WPSL clubs Indiana FC, New England Mutiny, ASA Chesapeake Charge and New York Fury made the step up, although the Fury roster is made up of 11 former Philadelphia Independence players. A new club, the Philadelphia Fever, also joined the league.
Dames, who also serves as President of the Eclipse Soccer club, says the new league might be missing the cachet of the U.S. National Team and other international players, but the level overall is still high.
"When you lose the top U.S. Women's National Team Players, or you lose international players from around the world, obviously there is going to be a bit of a drop off, but I don't know if itís necessarily worse," said Dames.
"I think that this league can definitely be more entertaining as far as the product that is put on the field. I think that teams in this league will be willing to open up and play and have a free flowing game that gets up and down and creates chances, so people actually want to watch it. I thought a lot of the old league was very defensive-oriented systems and teams staying very compact and digging in. You can have the best players in the world but of the product you are putting in the field isn't entertaining, people aren't going to want to watch it."