Chicago Red Stars: What to Know Before the Season Starts

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by Hayden Krzyzanowski

A team that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, The Chicago Red Stars, have restructured their entire front office which has led to major changes on the field. This renaissance of the Red Stars has been a wonderful thing to see in Bridgeview. A slow close to the season last year set fans off and it started to tumble as coaches and higher ranked front office members were shown the door. New owners came in, and everything seemed like it would fall into place! It took a little bit, but the signings started rolling in, a new head coach walked in, and all of a sudden the Red Stars looked like post-season contenders!

Richard Feuz

The front office additions were phenomenal. For their General Manager appointment, they looked in the chocolate country of Switzerland, where they found Richard Feuz. He led Servette Football Club to multiple achievements in both the men’s and women’s teams, serving as their CEO since 2020. He’d been with Servette since 2017 as the women’s team finished top of the AXA Women’s Super league, the top women’s league in Switzerland, four consecutive times. As the General Manager of the Red Stars, he’ll be leading all soccer operations of the team including coaching, performance training, administration staff, as well as the roster building through acquisitions, trades, or releases.

Lorne Donaldson

Next was a head coach. There were a handful of names on this shortlist, but Lorne Donaldson came out on top. He recently coached Jamaica, who are on the ups in the women’s soccer community as they’ve taken big strides internationally. This includes leading the Raggae Girlz to a historic Women’s World Cup run as they became the first Caribbean nation to advance past the group stages. He held off some major teams including Brazil and France, as well as taking down Panama. His resume is nothing short of impressive, as he coached at Jamaica’s youth level (U17 & U20) and an impressive youth soccer club called Real Colorado, where he serves as President and Coaching Director. He’s even developed the Red Stars’ very own Mallory Swanson!

Karen Leetzow

Finally, a President was needed; someone to take control of the club and reel it back in. Karen Leetzow was named President of the club on November 15, 2023. Her achievements seen thus far have been incredible. The first woman to serve as NASCAR’s general counsel, Leetzow has taken the fight to the U.S. Soccer Federation, taking over the national teams’ collective bargaining negotiations and finding equal pay between both the men’s and women’s teams. Laura Ricketts, the new principal owner of the club, said about her, “In her distinguished career she has gone beyond barriers and blazed a path for women to have a seat at the table of the C-suite of major sports enterprises and she has assured our athletes are protected and have a level playing field.” There’s no doubt in my mind that the club has been reset to go in the right direction with these moves.

There’s one move, however, that needs to be separated from all the rest because of how vital it was to the team. Mallory Swanson signed a new four-year deal with the team and became one of the highest paid players in the league. This came months after a season-ending knee injury that set her back and gave confidence to all players around her that there’s a brighter side to all injuries. This contract set the precedent for many teams around the league to go out and spend on these players. Swanson will now stay in Chicago with her husband, Dansby, the shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, and continue the progress she has helped start.


With that now out of the way, this offseason has seen many new faces walk through the doors of SeatGeek Stadium, let’s take a look at them!


Cari Roccaro:

The 29-year-old joined the Red Stars last season after being acquired from Angel City FC, but has since penned a new 2-year deal to remain in Chicago. The midfielder will look to add onto her 25 matches started last season, as well has the 4 goals she accumulated.


Chardonnay Curran:

Another 2-year deal to a youthful midfielder as the Red Stars continue to strengthen their depth. Curran spent the last 2 NWSL seasons with the Kansas City Current, making 40 appearances. She is likely to be a starter on opening day.

Samantha Staab

Samantha Staab:

Staab isn’t someone who I anticipated coming to Chicago, but she makes the move after being traded by the Washington Spirit for the 3rd overall pick in the NWSL Draft. A finalist for the 2023 NWSL Defender of the year award, she played every available regular-season minute for the third time in here career last season. She also earned best XI of the month honors in March, April, and May of last season. A quality pickup to the backline!


Shea Groom:

The former Texas A&M midfielder shifted from Houston to Chicago in the free agency window, signing a 2-year deal. The veteran brings a wealth of experience, playing in 159 matches with 134 starts and scoring 33 goals across all competitions. The 12th overall draft pick in 2015 will add to the midfield with her quality and experience for the upcoming season.


Natalia Kuikka:

The Finnish defender joins the Red Stars in a surprise pick-up. Signing a 3-year contract, fans on social media were surprised where she landed after her contract expired with the Portland Thorns. The five-time Finnish women’s player of the year will add experience and agility down the right flank to add to the fire power that has already been added.


Camryn Biegalski:

The Lombard native is back in Chicago after leaving in 2021. Biegalski signs a one-year contract with a mutual option for an additional year. The former Badger was named Big Ten Defender of the Year in her senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her experience will add to the strong backline that has been built so far.

Maximiliane Rall

Maximiliane Rall:

The German international brings experience from FC Bayern Munchen in the German Frauen-Bundesliga. She pens a one-year deal with a mutual option for a second year in Chicago. Rall has played at some of the highest experiences you can get in the sport, playing in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League, as well as being apart of a top-10 FIFA ranked team.


Mackenzie Wood:

Not exactly a new addition, but all things considered, this is a new one. The Red Stars recalled Wood from her loan at Stade de Reims in the French D1 Feminine league. She was initially brought in last year as emergency cover, but then loaned out last August. She will have her chance to be deputy to Alyssa Naeher this season.


Sydney Schneider:

Schneider is the likely keeper to be the deputy to Alyssa Naeher this season, as she signs from AC Sparta Praha in the Czech Women’s First League on a one-year deal. The starting goalkeeper from the Reggae Girlz will bring more Champions League experience as well as European experience to a tough league.


Ally Cook:

Initially a non-roster invitee to the preseason training camp this year, Cook was given a one-year contract with a one-year option this past week. The forward was undrafted in this year’s NWSL draft, joining from UCLA where she scored 14 goals and assisted four times in two seasons. Prior to UCLA, she was with the Oregon Ducks for three seasons, notching 17 goals and six assists.


So many new faces means many old ones walking out for the final time. Best wishes to these ladies on their next career move!

Jill Aguilera

Jill Aguilera:

In what was a shock release, Aquilera leaves the club with 36 appearances for the Red Stars and receiving her first call-up to the Puerto Rican national team, which included a goal in her debut. Aguilera will be a good addition to any team that decides to acquire her services.


Sam Fisher:

The 19th overall draft pick in 2022 unfortunately gets released. She made 23 appearances, including nine starts for the Red Stars, adding one goal and assist. She’s been called up to the El Salvador national team a few times, and I expect her to land somewhere else in the NWSL.


Addie McCain:

Only a year after signing, she was cut to make room for other players. The creative midfielder only made a couple of appearances before being released. This move was made to narrow down the roster to 32.


Amanda Fick:

Another player let go due to roster size, it’s just the name of the game right now. She joined the club back in 2022, appearing in 23 matches, scoring four goals across all competitions. A tough one to lose.


Emily Boyd:

Boyd was named to the July best XI of the month last season after some impressive performances in Naeher’s absence, so this one was tough to swallow. The five year veteran served the club when called upon and it stinks to lose her, but I have a good feeling she’ll land somewhere!

Ella Stevens

Ella Stevens:

Everyone from Boyd down is a hard loss, but one that will hopefully move the club forward. Stevens has been a presence in the final third that gave the Red Stars space in the midfield to take long range shots and score. She joins Gotham FC on a 2-year deal with an option for a third. She was selected 24th overall in the 2020 NWSL draft. She made 22 appearances, tallying four goals and one assist last season.


Casey Krueger:

A talented defender and a starter on the U.S. Women’s national team, Krueger has been a staple in the Red Stars backline for eight seasons. The 33-year old has crossed the country, going to the Washington Spirit to see out the rest of the of her career. Her veteran presence and strong pedigree with make Washington a tough team to beat this season.


Yuki Nagasato:

One of two players I didn’t want to leave the club, Nagasato joins the long list of players leaving the club for the upcoming season. She was with the club for a total of 5 seasons (with a little break from 2020 to 2022) and racked up 109 appearances. One of the more clinical players in this side, she signs a 2-year contract with the Houston Dash.


Arin Wright:

You can’t blame the club or the player for this deal happening. Before the NWSL draft this past January, this deal between Racing Louisville and the Red Stars came across the Twitter timeline and it made too much sense. Wright went back home while Chicago received the 15th overall pick as well as $125,000 in allocation money. It’s tough, but she went home. It is what it is.

Bianca St-Georges

Bianca St-Georges:

This was the other player I hated seeing move on. St-Georges had made her name with the Red Stars and started to flourish in the team. But, ultimately, she let her contract run down and joins the North Carolina Courage on a 2-year deal with an option for a 3rd. The Canadian scored four goals and assisted once last season. She was the tied highest goalscorer for the club alongside Ella Stevens.


Tierna Davidson:

The 1st overall draft pick in 2019, she saw success in Chicago, but it wasn’t enough for the established USWNT defender. She wanted to head up north to New York to test her luck with the reigning NWSL champions, Gotham FC. You can’t blame the free agent for wanting to leave, but losing that strong defensive presence will hurt the Red Stars in the long run.


Kayla Sharples:

And we’re at the last one. The Naperville native leaves the Red Stars after multiple seasons with the club. Sharples is well traveled, playing in Australia and Finland throughout her career thus far. The Naperville North defender has moved out to newly created Bay FC in San Francisco and signed a two-year deal.


They also hit the NWSL draft hard back in January and it answered a couple of needs that they so desperately needed to cover all positions on the field. There is a belief that they hit on their first round draft pick(s) among the fanbase, which gives me more excitement that this team will be powerful this season. Here’s who they drafted and how I think they’ll ultimately fit into the team.

LeiLanni Nesbeth

LeiLanni Nesbeth (1.10)

Drafted 10th overall, the forward/midfielder brings a lot of experience from Florida State. She started 21 games this past season, scoring two goals and assisting five times. She became a national champion this past season with the Seminoles as well as joining the NCAA tournament all-tournament team, CoSIDA Academic All-District, and the All-ACC Second Team. A wealth of accolades for the midfielder that will definitely be an impact player off the bench. She signs a three-year contract with the club.


Jamesse Joseph (2.01)

The forward out of NC State brings her final third presence into this team. She only scored three goals and assisted once last season, but she takes a plethora of shots on net, taking 42 last season. She was awarded Third Team All-ACC for her efforts last season, there may be a space for her in this team after all, but I wouldn’t expect too much game time this early on. She has also agreed to a three-year deal with the club.

Hannah Anderson

Hannah Anderson (3.03)

There are so many accolades to list for the defender out of Texas A&M that it’s like reading the dictionary. Let’s see if I get all of these. MAC Hermann Award semifinalist, United Soccer Coaches Association First Team All-American, Top Drawer Third Team All-American, CoSIDA Academic All-District, First Team All-Midwest, Big 12 Defensive Player of the year, First Team all-Big 12, Preseason all-Big 12 selection, and United Soccer Coaches Association Defender to Watch list. I forgot to mention this was all last season. Anderson can make a name for herself within this Red Stars Team, but it will take a lot of effort to budge many veterans out of their spots. She pens a one-year deal with an option for an additional year.


Bea Franklin (3.13)

A midfielder from Arkansas, she’s also racked up a list of accolades the size of a dictionary that outline this: she’s really darn good. She had her best season as a Razorback, scoring nine and assisting as many. Some really impressive stuff from the third-round pick. I’m fully expecting some off-the-bench minutes for Franklin around the summer time. Another one-year deal for the midfielder with an option for a second season. Fun fact about Franklin: she was a dual-sport athlete, playing point guard and shooting guard for the Razorbacks’ women’s basketball team.


Celia Gaynor (4.03)

The only player out of the draft at the time of writing this that hasn’t been signed by the club. She was the final pick for the club in this seasons NWSL draft, but would bring a lot of experience into the defending ranks. The graduate student out of Michigan State started all 20 matches for the Spartans last season and made her presence known in the backline, leading them to a 14-5-3 record last season. We’ll see if she gets picked up by the team, but I’m not overly optimistic.


The Red Stars have a lot of faith pinned behind this team, but if preseason has shown anything, it’s shown that this team has resilience, determination, and the will to fight for every chance at net. Get excited Chicago, we could have another sports franchise on the rise. Their 2024 season opener is on March 16, as they take on the newly created Utah Royals FC. Their home opener is on March 23, as they take on Seattle Reign FC at SeatGeek Stadium.

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