Before the start of the 2016 NWSL season the Chicago Red Stars lost veteran midfielder and former captain Lori Chalupny. She made the decision to retire from both club and country after the 2015 season. Despite missing Chalupny, Chicago has been able to command their midfield presence with two important players in their midfield in Vanessa DiBernardo and Danielle Colaprico.
Chicago has hit a bit of a recent rough patch in the absence of their U.S. national team players being out for the Olympics in Rio. Over the last four weeks Chicago has had two losses, one win, and only managed a draw against a ninth place Houston Dash – a game they should’ve won. Chicago’s lack of offense is something they are trying to correct; they’ve recently acquired Stephanie McCaffrey via Boston in a trade with the breakers.
Their defense and their midfield however have been bright spots throughout the season. Largely in part because of Dibernardo and Colaprico. After their recent match against Houston, Coach Rory Dames praised them both in their midfield roles “The more she’s [Colaprico] on the ball and the more Vanessa’s [DiBernardo] is on the ball, the better we are. They have a pretty good relationship with each other as far as their movement.”
Colaprico is the 2015 rookie of the year, and is only in her second season in the NWSL with the Red Stars but has shown no signs of a sophomore slump. Dames emphasized the role that Colaprico plays for Chicago. “Dani is really, really, good at what we ask her to do. She cuts out a lot of balls, she covers a lot of ground. She’s better in the air than people think. Getting her on the ball more is important for us.”
Colaprico has started every game since being drafted by Chicago, and has become a staple in Chicago’s midfield by being able to disrupt the oppositions run of play. She is a type of versatile player that is able to help facilitate offense and be trusted for defensive coverage. After winning the ball she can be trusted to play the ball through to DiBernardo or the outside backs in Casey Short and Arin Gilliland. She can be counted on for serving in a long ball to Christen Press or Sofia Huerta for goal. Defensively, she can prevent an offensive press by getting on the ball before it enters Chicago’s final third.
Colaprico’s play has obviously elevated in her second season with Chicago. However recently, we have seen the athletes tape around her knee and hamstring grow over the last few weeks. It’s cause for concern for a team that is already struggling offensively and missing its national team players for the Olympics. The NWSL will break for the Olympics in August, and despite playing through injury, Colaprico’s play has still shown resiliency and determination in her play.
Dames elaborated on her ability to perform while dealing with injury. “Dani’s been hurt for the last five weeks. Dani’s just trying to make it to the break so she can recover. About four of five of them [players] probably. You see her knee’s all taped up. Her hamstrings all taped up. So she’s probably playing at 70/75 percent, and still able to cover a ton of ground and do the things we’re able to ask of her.”
Colaprico understands playing through injury and explains her mind set in having to currently do so. “I’ve been having some knee problems. It’s hard but I think its getting better and its just something to push through. We have a break coming up in August so I’m just trying to get through to that break and we have one more week to get three points. I’m just pushing through at this point. ”
Chicago is a young team with a lot of talent and Colaprico is considered to be a part of its core. Her outstanding play last year lead to a national team camp call up during the U.S national team World Cup victory tour. After this years Olympic break, it will be another four years till the next cycle. Its not crazy to assume there will be more in her future. Dames shares this thought as well, and concluded his praise by acknowledging her potential on a national team level. “I think that there’s about four or five in our group that are on the cusp that when the Olympics are over if they can improve on a few things they’re going to have a legitimate shot to at least get a look in the next cycle. She is obviously one of them.”
Her importance to the team and presence in the midfield, coupled with DiBernardo, has proven crucial in some of Chicago’s more closely contested matches this season to date. While fans in Chicago will be treated this weekend to the return of Chalupny for a jersey retirement ceremony, they will also be witness to a rising star midfielder in Colaprico.