BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- For the first time since 2010, the Chicago Red Stars will take to the Toyota Park pitch this Saturday against the Western New York Flash as the second part of the day’s doubleheader with the Fire.
While eight other NWSL teams opened their seasons last week, Saturday’s game will serve as the season kickoff for the Red Stars and after over a month of preseason, it couldn’t come a moment too soon according to head coach Rory Dames.
“We’ve had a good preseason,” he told Chicago-Fire.com this week. “We’re pretty young but we feel good about what we’ve been doing. The group has a good feel with each other, generally like each other and playing together and we’re excited to be playing a game.
“We’re tired of kicking each other in training. It’s time to kick someone else,” he joked.
Having played their last few seasons at Benedictine University in Lisle, the Red Stars enter their sixth season of play and second in the newest iteration of women’s professional soccer, the National Women’s Soccer League, where they just missed out on the playoffs last season.
Among the list of notable players on the Red Stars roster are longtime Canadian international goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, former U.S. international Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx, first round draft pick Julie Johnson and Jackie Santacaterina, cousin of Fire forward Mike Magee.
Of Santacaterina, Dames said, “She’s coming back from labrum surgery. She’ll start in the game, I don’t know if she’ll be able to go 90 minutes or not, we’ll have to monitor it but Jackie’s one of the leaders in the group for sure. She’s important for us on the field – a fantastic leader that’s super positive and does well at organizing. I hope she has a big role to play for us on the weekend.”
Along with opening up the 2014 season, Dames said he and his players are honored to be returning to Toyota Park.
“It’s a soccer specific stadium and it’s nice to get to play on a grass surface. It’s a privilege to be able to represent the city of Chicago and play in that venue together with the Fire. We’re excited for Saturday.”