From veterans to a rookie, the Chicago Red Stars defense is getting in done late in 2021

WGN News Now

CHICAGO – Not too long ago, she was watching these players take the field as a fan at SeatGeek Stadium, so it’s been an interesting 2021 season for a Chicago Red Stars rookie defender.

A native of Orland Park, Tatumn Milazzo joined the club in the offseason which contained a number of veteran players, especially on defense, who’d been part of the franchise for a few years. After being a fan of these Red Stars players, now she was taking the field next to them.

“When Julie (Ertz) was here in the beginning, I remembered in high school I watched her play with the Red Stars,” said Milazzo. “Seeing her and like Morgan (Gautrat), Sarah (Gorden), Casey (Krueger), everyone, I was like ‘This is really cool, but play it cool, don’t be too much of a fan girl right now and earn my spot.”

So far in 2021, she’s been able to do that, playing alongside athletes she watched and helping to bolster the Red Stars’ defense when they’ve needed it the most. Milazzo has appeared in 11 matches this year with seven starts, including the last two Red Stars games in place of Krueger.

Along with veterans Gorden, a finalist for NWSL Defender of the Year, Tierna Davidson, and Arin Wright, the club had back-to-back shutouts in those matches against Orlando to get in the playoffs and then the quarterfinal match against NJ/NY Gotham FC on Sunday.

In their last 11 matches, the Red Stars have only given up more than one goal one time to reach the NWSL semifinals where they’ll face top-seeded Thorns on Sunday in Portland.

“All kinds of defending, ‘1-v-1,’ winning balls in the box was huge for this game,” said goalkeeper Cassie Miller of Sunday’s quarterfinal win. “They were incredible in front of me and they just shut everyone down.”

Doing so will be critical if the Red Stars hope to upend Portland on their home field, which the club found out just how hard it was to do in their season opener May 16th. The Thorns won that contest 5-0 but the Red Stars got one back with a 2-1 win over Portland at SeatGeek Stadium on September 25th in arguably their biggest regular season victory.

“Portland is a tough place in the history of the Red Stars for us to play at, but I’m excited about it,” said Gorden. “It’s going to be an incredible challenge.”

Whether if or how much Milazzo plays is still to be determined, but like her entire rookie year, she’s eager to contribute either as a starter or a substitute.

“My teammates have been really encouraging this past week and also in the game,” said Milazzo. “I just want to put it all out there for them and get us as far as we can go and go win something for the city.”

For a club and players she grew up watching.

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