Lori Chalupny – M/D
Unwillingly internationally retired by the USSF after multiple concussions, Chalupny has nonetheless rumbled on at club level. Despite her consistent stellar play though, Chalupny had to suffer through seeing the Athletica fold before trying to carry the woeful Atlanta Beat on her back in WPS. Just as she had seemed to finally be in position to potentially win a title with Philadelphia, the league folded. It was back to the Midwest last year, as Chalupny starred for the Red Stars in WPSL Elite before a short stint in Sweden with AIK. Has the potential to be one of the world’s best left-backs but famously hates playing there despite her proficiency at full-back. Could end up as a left-winger in the attack, though a spot centrally as a midfield playmaker seems just as likely to help balance out the club’s plethora of defensive midfielders.
Taryn Hemmings – D
She may have entered WPS with the Miss Irrelevant tag in 2010 after being taken last in the rookie draft, but Hemmings certainly isn’t irrelevant any more, as the Denver product has turned into a solid defender at professional level in both the U.S. with Boston and abroad in Australia for Canberra United. With the size to play in the center and the drive and attacking thrust to play at right-back, Hemmings’ versatility will likely make her an invaluable commodity this season for the Red Stars. With presence of Lauren Fowlkes and Carmelina Moscato, Hemmings looks most likely to feature on the right for the club, though if either of the above falters, or if Rory Dames prefers a 3-5-2 formation, Hemmings could be back in the middle, anchoring the defense.
Ella Masar – F
Masar will be hoping for a return to her scoring form late in her Red Stars stint in the WPS after some trying times in recent years. Her scoring rate with the erstwhile magicJack side wasn’t exactly pristine, though you could hardly blame her for her tepid form given some of the off-the-pitch horrorshows associated with that club. Reasonable success in a stint with Paris Saint-Germain in France was followed by a rather nondescript return to the Red Stars for a small chunk of last season’s WPSL Elite campaign. With so many questions hanging over Chicago’s frontline going into the new season, Masar may well be the club’s most proven and reliable option up front. She’ll probably have to score like an elite forward as well if this club’s likely to get a sniff of the playoffs.
Jessica McDonald – F
Likely parlayed her excellent form in Australia with Melbourne Victory into a second shot at the pro ranks in the U.S. Was involved in the U.S. youth international setup earlier in her career despite going the junior college route before transferring to North Carolina, where she was a part of a national title winning side. An ill-fated move to go pro early despite being in the mix for being a first round pick a season later saw McDonald suffer through an injury plagued stint with these same Red Stars. McDonald has unexpectedly thrust herself towards a second act in the WoSo limelight with a career renaissance in Australia after a stint in WPSL closer to her Arizona home. Has all the physical tools to be a success at this level, including much needed size for a smallish Chicago frontline. Might end up starting as a change of pace off the bench this year but could well be a key figure in the attack by season’s end.
Leslie Osborne – M
Years after becoming an icon of the Boston Breakers for her work for the franchise both on and off the pitch, Osborne returns to the Midwest with the Red Stars. Frozen out of the national team setup after a serious knee injury in 2008, Osborne’s continued absence from the USWNT remains puzzling to many after continual strong performances for the Breakers both in WPS and WPSL Elite. Uncompromising in the tackle and a strong leader, Osborne figures to be one of the centerpieces of this Chicago side, though her exact role could be something in flux considering the Red Stars’ glut of defensive midfielders they were allocated. Given her talents though, Osborne could be tasked with being the deepest lying midfielder to protect a defense that doesn’t look like the most stout at the moment.
4. Lindsay Tarpley – F/M
Chicago probably raised an eyebrow or two by springing for Tarpley with their first pick in the supplemental draft. There can be no doubting Tarpley’s quality, as her versatility and skills had made her a constant in the ranks of the USWNT in between serious knee injuries. But that’s the major rub for the Michigan native, who was cruelly struck down with another ACL injury right before the 2011 Women’s World Cup, with Tarpley having not featured for club or country since. There hasn’t been any official confirmation that Tarpley intends to make a return to playing action, though you suspect Chicago wouldn’t have spent a high pick on her without doing their due diligence. If healthy, Tarpley’s all but a lock for the lineup, though where she could play likely depends on how the rest of the team’s nucleus looks to be shaping up.
12. Lauren Fowlkes – D/M/F
Fowlkes did a little of everything with Notre Dame as a collegiate star, more than capable of serving as a target forward up front or as a pillar of strength in defense for the Irish, helping lead the club to a national title in the process. Fowlkes’ early travails at professional level were nowhere near as noteworthy though, as after being an early round pick of Philadelphia, the Midwesterner ended up riding the pine all year as she battled injury and a stacked depth chart in front of her. Fowlkes would revitalize her career last season in WPSL Elite for these Red Stars, knocking in more than a handful of goals to take her place near the top of the league’s scoring chart. At this level though, Fowlkes looks likelier to feature back at the heart of the defense as one of the club’s top contenders at center-back.
20. Michelle Wenino – D
Red Stars veteran was little used early in her pro career with Chicago in 2009 but kickstarted her career with a stint at Freiburg in Germany, which she parlayed into a deal with Sky Blue FC a season later in WPS. Came back to Chicago’s WPSL Elite effort last season and was a key player for the league runners-up on the left in defense. Can struggle against fleet-footed opponents out wide but ability to play on either side could be an asset on her favor. With Lori Chalupny’s aversion at playing full-back and Rachel Quon being more of a natural right-back, the left-back job could be Wenino’s to lose barring some late additions to the club.
28. Jackie Santacaterina – D/M
Another selection Red Stars fans should be more than a little familiar with, as Santacaterina’s been an area staple at both collegiate level with Illinois and at pro level with Chicago in multiple leagues these past few years. A consistent defensive bulwark with the Illini, consistent starting minutes haven’t been easy for Santacaterina to find at the next level, with the versatile Illini alum only featuring in about half of the club’s games last season in WPSL Elite. Has the size to hold her own in the middle, but in a crowded field of defenders, she might be fighting for one of the club’s last roster spots.
36. Alyssa Mautz – M/F
Ended up being a real steal in the draft for Sky Blue FC in the waning days of the WPS despite coming into the league as a real dark horse talent after a strong collegiate career with Texas A&M. Moved back to the Midwest after WPS’ death, hooking up with the Red Stars for their strong WPSL Elite campaign and featuring well despite a modest offensive return. Could have trouble breaking into this midfield, though her skill set makes her a perfect foil for the club’s mostly defensive midfield setup. It seems likeliest that Mautz’ll be a super sub du jour for the Red Stars, coming on for one of the Boxx/Osborne duo when Chicago’s chasing the game in the second half. On the whole, this pick was incredible value, one of the best in the supplemental draft when all things are considered.
Sonja Fuss – D
Isn’t going to grab as many headlines as the club’s other German international signing, Inka Grings, but could be just as important given an apparent lack of superstar defenders on the club. Once a fixture for her country, Fuss last featured prominently at EURO 2009 and has been something of a vagabond at club level as well, with appearances for Frankfurt, Turbine Potsdam, Brauweiler Pulheim, Duisburg, and Koln before what appeared to be a golden parachute to end her career with Swiss powerhouse FC Zurich. NWSL figures to be a big step back up, and the Red Stars will be hoping there’s still plenty in the tank from the thirty-four year old in what could be a grueling Summer season. Versatility looks to be a plus, and a spot out wide in the full-back spots if she can handle the pace of this level looks most likely upon her arrival in May.
Inka Grings – F
In a signing that could rank among the shrewdest in American pro WoSo history if it works out, the Red Stars surprised the women’s soccer world by announcing they had acquired Grings, one of the world’s deadliest forwards for the better part of a decade and a half. Grings had seemingly been content with what looked like a golden parachute in the form of an easy life scoring tons of goals with FC Zurich in Switzerland after a glittering club career with Duisburg in Germany. Internationally retired, Grings proved she still had it with Zurich and will be looking to prove she can still do it at an even higher level once she arrives in Chicago in May. In her mid-thirties, there will likely be the inevitable questions of how Grings deals with the pace of the game in the U.S., not to mention what could be grueling heat and fixture buildup in the Summer months. But Grings obviously isn’t going to forget how to score, and the German will surely look forward to exploit the service of the likes of Lori Chalupny as she tries to write another chapter in a legendary career.
What They Still Need
The Red Stars solved their problem with a glut of defensive midfielders by trading away Keelin Winters, though that’s not going to prove very helpful in the short-term. With the move, Lori Chalupny is likely free to fill a role as a #10ish playmaker in the middle, though the club now looks short on quality left-sided players other than her if they do move Chalupny inside. Lindsay Tarpley could slot in anywhere in the attack if she’s healthy, while Jessica McDonald will likely be a target forward if the club moves Ella Masar wide, as I project in my above lineup.
As is the case with many of the clubs in the league this year, Chicago looks to be in need of a left-back of starting calibre. Chalupny fits that bill, but she’s not a fan of playing full-back, with her talents likely needed more as a creative presence in midfield at any rate. Rookie Rachel Quon played on the left for Stanford for a season but is more comfortable on the right, though she doesn’t figure to beat out Taryn Hemmings there if Rory Dames chooses to play the Denver alum out wide. Michelle Wenino, the club’s left-back for much of last season, is another option, though one wonders if she’s starting calibre at this level. Late addition Lydia Vandenbergh is another that could potentially contend for a starting spot at full-back. The club would also likely like to bring in another keeper to push Taylor Vancil for the #2 spot.
Above all though, Chicago needs to be able to figure out a coherent offense lineup. They’ve got five or six players capable of playing on the frontline, but striking just the right balance could be a challenge early for Dames.