As the Chicago Red Stars prepare for their last two regular season games with a playoff spot still on the line, 24-year old midfielder Danielle Colaprico is going to be ever so important. The New Jersey native has been a mainstay in the Chicago midfield, recording 20 starts this season for a team that currently sits in third place in the NWSL standings with a win between them and a solidified playoff spot. Colaprico, the University of Virginia standout, has come into her own in Chicago and talked with me this week about what lies ahead for the Red Stars, her time so far in Chicago, which soccer player she most looks up to, and what she’d be doing if she wasn’t playing soccer!
Hannah Kronick: To kick it off, what’s the mindset on the team right now? How are you guys preparing to go into the last two games of the season on the hunt for securing a playoff spot?
Danielle Colaprio: So, we kind of had a little bit of a rough patch a couple weeks ago where we lost three at home. We turned that around when we went away to Washington and then we played Kansas City, and that wasn’t the result we wanted from that game, but a tie is okay. Right now, we are really focused on the upcoming game in Houston. Heading into it, we are focused on really what our identity as a team is. I think we are a team that wants to be gritty and resilient, but at the same time, we want to play soccer. I think that’s the strategy we try to go for. These two weeks is a time for us to come together as a team to really find that identity that we are looking for.
HK: For you personally, what are you really looking to accomplish in the home stretch of the regular season?
DC: I’m really focused on that new position that I am in-it’s really more so just getting more comfortable and confident in that position because that’s where I’ve been playing lately and it’s where Rory likes to see me play. It’s really focusing on that and coming into training every day focused. We know that this next game is not a joke, and it’s something that we really need to go into 100% and come out with a win. I am focused on the next game and that’s about it!
HK: What’s been the best part of being part of the Red Stars and representing Chicago?
DC: I love the city of Chicago and I love nothing more than to represent it. We came in this year with a new motto that it’s “our kind of town,” and we really do want to get our name out there and show Chicago that we are doing this for them, not only us. I think that’s the main thing for me. It’s been awesome. When I came in as a rookie, everyone was so welcoming and even Rory as a coach gave me a lot of freedom as a rookie and in the subsequent years to play the soccer that I like to play. It means a lot to me and it means that he has confidence in me. That’s a great feeling, and it’s nice to have a coach behind you like that. For me, it’s been great. I wouldn’t say I have anything negative to say about it! I love Chicago and I love the team.
HK: After being drafted in 2015 to the Red Stars, what did you find the most challenging adjustment to make coming from UVA?
DC: The biggest thing for me was speed of play. In college, the speed of play is just not as fast as it is in this league. In this league you’ve always got to be on your toes, ready for the next play, know where you are going with the ball before you get it. You can’t get away with not being ready for those things in this league. Teams are so good defensively and you always have to be ready for what’s next.
HK: What was it like to play in the W-League in Australia? What can you say about similarities or differences between the W-League and the NWSL?
DC: I’d say the league in Australia isn’t as good as the league here, but it’s definitely great to get games under your belt in the off-season. It’s hard to replicate a 90-minute game in the off-season no matter how hard you train. I still think it’s the best kind of training to prepare you for the next season because you’re getting a 90-minute game. I definitely saw a difference coming into pre-season this year. I was ready to go and I was 90-minute fit. It gave me a step ahead. In terms of the soccer over there, some of the games are definitely competitive.
HK: Who would you say you look up to most from a soccer perspective?
DC: This is actually really funny because I just exchanged jerseys with him today, but I would say Dax McCarty. You probably didn’t think I was going to say him, but I have been watching him at Red Bull for a long time and luckily enough, he was traded to Chicago. He is a player that I look up to because not only does he work hard and is box-to-box all the time in the midfield, but he knows how to break lines, and the way he sees the field is amazing. I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he does. That’s something I admire about him because he always gives 110 percent but might not get all the praise he deserves.
HK: What’s your time with the USWNT been like?
DC: Obviously being called into training camp and getting to play with the best players in the world is an awesome opportunity! It takes my game to a whole other level. Speed of play is even faster here with the national team. It’s been something I’ve really tried to work on. There were times where I lost the ball because I wasn’t quick enough with it, but that’s something I’ve been able to learn from. I’ve learned that figuring out how quickly I can move on to the next thing is going to determine what type of player I am. It’s a great environment to be in. It’s very competitive. As an athlete, it’s an environment that I want to be in every day. It’s something I am shooting for and something I am hoping is in my future.
HK: What do you think is the one piece of advice to young girls who aspire to play soccer professionally?
DC: I was reading a book and one quote from it that really hit home: “All your mistakes and your setbacks can either be your excuse or your story.” So, how you come back from those setbacks is really going to show the character that you have as well as your potential. When you make a mistake or have an injury, a lot of people get down on themselves and feel sorry for themselves. There’s no reason to feel sorry for themselves. That is the time for growth. It really hit home for me.
HK: Would you say there’s anything in your soccer career so far (not just professionally) that you would’ve done differently?
DC: One thing I would say is that when I did get injured with my knee my rookie season, I went to camp and was trying to play through an injury. I think that I was wrapped up in thinking I had to go to camp, I had to push through and I had to play through it instead of stepping back and taking the time to recover knowing that I couldn’t perform to my best ability. At the time, I was looking back thinking that I didn’t play my best because of my knee and I was feeling down and thinking “Oh, well.” But afterwards, I said to myself, “What Danielle?” because that’s not how I should’ve been thinking. I should have been thinking about what was next and what the future was instead of looking back and feeling sorry for myself. That’s something I have been trying to focus on, living in the present and moving on from mistakes or setbacks that have occurred in my career.
HK: If you weren’t a professional soccer player, what would you be doing?
DC: This is funny because obviously I think about what’s next after soccer and sometimes have to keep that on the back burner. I want to be around something with sports. If I had to give a best answer, I would say coaching or some kind of job where I could share my own experiences. Maybe sort of a life coach for athletes. I really enjoy helping others, and I think it’s great when I can share my own experiences and it allows others to relate. That’s something I enjoy a lot.
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