“Defense wins championships…” It’s a quote coined by famed college coach Bear Bryant and has been echoed throughout various sports scenarios since it has been uttered into existence. In soccer, a strong back line and a goalkeeper who can demonstrate leadership of that back line is essential to a successful team. When the Chicago Red Stars announced their preseason roster it featured several defenders and goalkeepers. A mix of veterans, draftees, and invitees (trialists).
Last season, Chicago appeared to have a solid defensive foundation even during a World Cup cycle in which key defensive players were absent. 2015 saw goalkeepers Katrina Leblanc and Michele Dalton, along with defenders Julie Johnston and Michelle Lomnicki, among its core pieces.
However in the off season, the Red Stars were left with defensive holes in forms of retirement, expansion drafts, and trades. LeBlanc and Lomnicki announced their retirement. Taryn Hemmings was selected by Orlando Pride in the expansion draft (she later announced retirement). Abby Erceg was traded to WNY Flash in a deal involving Whitney Engen, who was later traded to Boston Breakers for United States National Women’s Team goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
Chicago’s 2016 NWSL draft class featured 4 defensive selections. 3 of those picks were called to the preseason roster. Notre Dame’s Katie Naughton, Depaul’s Sarah Gorden, and Northern Colorado’s Adrienne Jordan. All draftees are strong capable players of making the squad, and with all the changes, they can use this preseason to make their case.
In addition to a busy off season, the same day Chicago released their preseason roster they also announced Rachel Quon would not be returning to the Red Stars for the upcoming 2016 season. Quon, a key utility player, offered depth at various positions as defensive back and defensive midfield. Along with signing Alyssa Naeher, the Red Stars announced the signing of defender Casey Short. Short has ties with Chicago dating back to 2013 when they acquired her rights from Boston, however, due to injuries she was unable to play. She is coming off a successful season with Avaldsnes football club in Norway and is expected to make an impact for the team.
Chicago Red Stars Coach Rory Dames has been quoted saying she will provide options at outside back “…She will slide straight into one of our outside back spots and give us the attributes we look for in those spaces.”
Finally, a surprising pre-season roster move, second year Forward Cara Walls and veteran Midfielder Alyssa Mautz were listed as defenders on the roster. Their experience will be leaned on tested in these preseason games. Kassidy Brown, Madison Krauser, Jennifer Pelley, and Brianna Smallidge were invited as trialists. The preseason roster rounds out at 11 defenders and 4 goalkeepers.
GOALKEEPERS (4): Michele Dalton, Alyssa Naeher, Jennifer Pelley, Brianna Smallidge
DEFENDERS (11): Kassidy Brown, Arin Gilliland, Sarah Gorden, Samantha Johnson, Julie Johnston, Adrienne Jordan, Madison Krauser, Alyssa Mautz, Katie Naughton, Casey Short, Cara Walls
The Preseason is officially underway with a closed scrimmage having already taken place against Illinois State. Two more games will follow and are open and free to the public. April 3rd against Northwestern at 5pm and April 6th against Notre Dame at 6pm.