Rory Dames knows that his Chicago Red Stars squad is being looked at as a team that will struggle to score goals. And while there may not be any sort of traditional star power on their front line, what they do have is depth.
“I feel pretty good in that we have seven or eight players that are capable of scoring goals,” Dames said. “In the end that will probably make is a more balanced team and harder to prepare for as opposed to some of the teams that have one or two players where a majority of their goals come from.”
Ella Masar, an original Red Star from 2009, will be among those counted on to produce goals, something she has become quite adept at over the last three seasons. Mexican allocation Maribel Dominguez is also a known goal scorer but only arrived in the Windy City over the weekend. Other forwards or midfielders with an eye on the goal include Jessica McDonald and No. 1 overall draft pick Zakiya Bywaters. And more help is on the way. German Inka Grings will join the Red Stars in the second half of May. Jen Hoy impressed during her two weeks with the team and will be back in June after completing her degree at Princeton. The late arrivals—another German, defender Sonja Fuss, also arrives in May—will make for some tough decisions for Dames as the season rolls along.
“We’ll have some very difficult choices,” he said. “As I said we have a very close group that has trained very hard and very well together. But that will give these players another four to six weeks to continue to develop and continue to train and show what they’re capable of. And it gives us a much longer evaluation period.”
Star Watch: The truth is, there is not a lot here in terms of Q-rating. Shannon Boxx is a national team staple but she is also 35 and does not spend much time in or around the goal. The other two allocated U.S. players will not suit up for the team this season. Amy LePeilbet had season-ending knee surgery and Keelin Winters was traded to Seattle.
Leslie Osborne is another popular player who does not do a lot of scoring. One of the interesting tactical questions will be how Osborne and Boxx will interact since they normally do very similar things in the center of the field.
Asked how it might look Dames responded, “That’s a great question,” and noted that Boxx has yet to train with the team because of national team duty and some prior commitments that required her to be on the West Coast.
“We have a few different ideas of how we can manage them and play them together and equalize them by rotating minutes or sharing minutes. Depending on if it’s a week we have three games or a week we have one game, we have some different choices. But being the professionals that Shannon and Leslie both are they’ll help us through that process.”
Potential Breakout Player: Dames said the only player on his opening day roster he did not expect to be there is Baylor rookie forward Hanna Gilmore, who came through the tryout process and made the final cut.
“She’s by far the most improved player from where we started to where we are now,” Dames said. “She’s had a very good preseason. But she comes from Baylor and Marci (Jobson, Baylor head coach)’s players are always going to be very well trained and worked very hard. Hanna’s been no exception to that.”
The Red Stars will also be looking for Bywaters to live up to the expectations that come with being the first college player taken in the draft. Taryn Hemmings is a diverse player with professional experience who could be key in the back.
Off the Field: The history of start-up leagues is such that the teams that mesh the fastest often have the most success in the first season. By that measure the Chicago Red Stars feel they’re ahead of the curve ahead of the opening weekend of NWSL play.
“It’s a team in every sense of the word,” head coach Rory Dames said. “I thought that would take longer to get to than it has.”
Dames noted two reasons for the quick cohesion. The first is the glut of players returning who played for the club in WPSL Elite last summer. The second is the signing of Osborne, who will serve as co-captain with one of the returnees, Lori Chalupny.
“Bringing in Leslie Osborne helped a ton,” he said. “She is one of the best leaders I have been around.”
The coach also singled out goalkeeper Erin McLeod as well as Chalupny. “I think having the familiarity of the group from last year definitely helps, and some of the new pieces that were added—that are big pieces—are also great people and good leaders. It was just a much smoother transition than I expected.”
Coaching Factor: Masar called the current club the most cohesive unit she has played with since turning professional in 2009. She added that having so many players who already played for Dames was a major asset during pre-season.
“Rory is a very unique individual,” said Masar, who will be called upon to score goals for the Red Stars. “I think he’s different for each player. He just knows what makes each person tick. For me he knows how to get on me and make me better. I know the last three and a half weeks I’ve gotten better. It’s not always going to be fun. It’s not always going to be easy. But you know he means it in the right way. I’ve never really seen a coach able to interact with each player in a different way.
No. Player Pos. Ht. Birthdate Hometown College
7 Shannon Boxx MID 5-8 06/29/1977 Fontana, CA Notre Dame
6 Zakiya Bywaters M/F 5-1 07/24/1991 Las Vegas, NV UCLA
17 Lori Chalupny M/F 5-4 01/29/1984 St. Louis, MO University of North Carolina
9 Maribel Dominguez FWD 5-3 11/18/1978 Mexico City, Mexico N/A
15 Lauren Fowlkes D/F 5-10 07/06/1998 Kansas City, MO Notre Dame
10 Dinora Garza MID 5-3 01/24/1988 Reynosa, Mexico N/A
16 Hanna Gilmore FWD 5-4 03/07/1991 Spring, TX Baylor University
14 Taryn Hemmings DEF 5-7 04/26/1986 Greeley, CO University of Denver
3 Ella Masar FWD 5-5 04/03/1986 Urbana, IL University of Illinois
4 Alyssa Mautz MID 5-5 07/29/1989 St. Louis, MO Texas A&M
8 Jessica McDonald FWD 5-9 02/28/1988 Glendale, AZ University of North Carolina
1 Erin McLeod GK 5-9 02/29/1893 St. Albert, Canada Penn State University
5 Carmelina Moscato DEF 5-9 05/02/984 Mississauga, Canada Penn State University
12 Leslie Osborne MID 5-8 05/27/1983 Milwaukee, WI Santa Clara University
11 Rachel Quon DEF 5-2 05/21/1991 Lake Forest, IL Stanford University
18 Jackie Santacaterina DEF 5-8 12/29/1987 Geneva, IL University of Illinois
19 Julianne Sitch MID 5-3 09/15/1983 Oswego, IL DePaul University
20 Taylor Vancil GK 5-7 05/18/1991 Youngsville, NC Florida State University
13 Lydia Vandenbergh DEF 5-3 01/02/1984 Rochester, NY Florida State University
23 Michelle Wenino DEF 5-8 05/03/1987 Aurora, CO University of Colorado Boulder
Head Coach: Rory Dames
First Assistant Coach: Stephanie Foster
Second Assistant Coach: Christian Lavers
Goalkeeper Coach: Trae Manny
Head Athletic Trainer: Cherlyne Carlos, ATC, NASM-PES Team Doctor: Danielle Bass, MD
General Manager: Alyse LaHue