2017 NWSL season review: Chicago Red Stars
2017 NWSL season review: Chicago Red Stars | Photo: Chicago Red Stars - chicagoredstars.com

The Chicago Red Stars finished the season off with a record of 11-7-6, which placed them in fourth. The Red Stars made it to the playoffs and headed to Cary, North Carolina to play the NWSL Shield winners, the North Carolina Courage. Chicago failed to reach the finals for the third consecutive year after giving up a goal in the 90th minute to the Courage.

Their hopes of reaching the finals were heightened as the coaching staff was busy making additions to their team. Starting with the addition of their three rookies from the NWSL draft. Coach Rory Dames, added Michele Vasconcelos, Morgan Proffitt and Lauren Kaskie to his roster. That wasn't it for Dames though. Japanese international, Yuki Nagasato was signed to the team after Mary Luba was waived. Towards the end of the season, rookie Morgan Proffitt was waived as the Red Stars welcomed Kristie Mewis into town. After playing just one game and scoring a goal, the Red Stars traded with the Houston Dash. A Kristie Mewis for a US international star, Morgan Brian.

The Red Stars celebrating a goal | Photo: Daniel Bartel/ISI Photos
The Red Stars celebrating a goal | Photo: Daniel Bartel/ISI Photos

Biggest Win

The biggest win for the Red Stars came for them on September 3rd in Bridgeview, Illinois. Chicago played the North Carolina Courage for the third and final time that season to eventually beat them in a 3-1 win. The game started off in the 15th minute when Lynn Williams of the North Carolina Courage put one in the back of the net. The game remained pretty even for the rest of the half. It wasn't until Rory Dames made the change to put Japanese international, Yuki Nagasato on at half to get things rolling and that is exactly what she did.

In the 52nd minute, Christen Press sent a ball into the box right at the feet of Nagasato. Nagasato hit a left footer, into the left corner of the goal to tie the game up. Next up, it was time for an assist. In the 84th minute Nagasato sent a cross into the box. Julie Ertz, like usual, was ready with her head and sent the ball into the back of the net to give the Red Stars the lead. Four minutes of stoppage time were added but the Courage were not able to find the net and the Red Stars were able to defeat the Courage in all three regular season matches.

Yuki Nagasato celebrating goal | Photo: Chicago Red Stars: chicagoredstars.com
Yuki Nagasato celebrating goal | Photo: Chicago Red Stars - chicagoredstars.com

Biggest Defeat

The Red Stars were handed their biggest defeat on August 16th, when the Seattle Reign came to town for a Wednesday night game. The game started off in the 23rd minute when Jen Hoy got on the score sheet after an assist from Taylor Comeau. The Red Stars had control of the game and were able to out shoot the Reign 12-9. Although, Seattle wasn't finished and continued to fight until the very end of the match.

In the 90th minute, Japanese international, Nahomi Kawasumi sent the ball pass Alyssa Naeher to hit the back of the net with an assist from Rumi Utsugi. The Reign were able to tie the game and have one more boost of energy as the fourth official announced there would be four minutes of stoppage time. In the next two minutes, Merritt Mathias sent a through ball in pass the Chicago defense. Rookie, Katie Johnson took a shot from outside of the box to earn her first professional goal and help give Seattle the win of the Red Stars.

Team MVP

Many people formally know her as Julie Johnston but this year she has a new name and a new role. Ertz has been a center back for Chicago and the United States National Team for practically all of her career. It wasn't until this year, coach Rory Dames found a new spot for her in more of a midfield position. With this switch, Ertz was able to create opportunities and get shots. Not only was she more attacking on the offensive end, Ertz still had the mentality of a defender from playing the position for so long she was able to help out and make the Chicago defensive even more powerful. Ertz found the back of the net four times, had three assists, 36 shots on goal, started 21 out of 22 games played and played a total of 1932 minutes. Ertz's presence was noticeable for Chicago but this change has made her an even bigger threat for club and country.

Julie Ertz celebrating goal | Photo: Chicago Red Stars
Julie Ertz celebrating goal | Photo: Chicago Red Stars

Player with an off year

With the Red Stars having such a successful year, it is hard to name any players that really had an off year. Each player had their own way that they impacted the team but one player that maybe didn't stand out as much as last year would have to be Vanessa DiBernardo. Although, Dibernardo still had a great season with three goals and two assists in 1707 minutes, she didn't stand out as much as the previous season. Last season she was able to create seven assists and was on the NWSL Second XI.

Vanessa Dibernardo | Photo: Chicago Red Stars
Vanessa Dibernardo | Photo: Chicago Red Stars

Improvements for the 2018 season

Chicago as made their mark as a extremely strong team. Yet, everyone is wondering when its going to be their turn to head to the final and give a shot at the trophy. The biggest thing that the Red Stars can improve on for next season is making sure they play the entire 90. As we saw in matches this year, the Red Stars were shown to have the advantage on the game but not be able to hold out for the entire game. As we saw in the playoffs against the Courage and the match previously mentioned against Seattle. The Chicago Red Stars are a group of very talented players but it is whether or not these players will be execute an entire 90 minute game that will send them to the finals next season.