CHICAGO – In many ways, the process of starting a new era of the franchise both on and off the field is well underway before the regular season even began.
The Chicago Red Stars have already played six matches in the NWSL Challenge Cup as they got a chance to get to know the style of new manager Chris Petrucelli along with a number of new players added to the mix. In fact, they’ll be facing their opening night opponent, Racing Louisville FC, for a third time in a little over a month.
That contest is Saturday at 7 PM at SeatGeek Stadium, which is the first of 22 matches for the club in the regular season as they seek their first NWSL championship after reaching the final of the last two full regular seasons in 2019 and 2021.
On-field achievement is only one part of the club’s goals for 2022, with the other coming off the field and making sure that player problems and concerns are addressed.
That has been at the forefront of a reorganization of the club’s front office following the resignation of manager Rory Dames in November 2021 just before a report from the Washington Post outlined allegations of mistreatment of players.
When the club hired Petrucelli in February, the Red Stars outlined those changes, which you can read about here.
“We’ve spent 6-to-8 weeks on the field, off the field, developing that chemistry, getting to know one another, understanding how each other plays, the styles. Obviously, I’m happy where it’s at,” said goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher at the team’s media day on April 21st.. “Obviously, we need to improve and grow from there. But I think we’ve got a very good base.”
As the club continues those initiatives, the building of chemistry continues on the pitch with the group as they get adjusted to Petrucelli and a few new players.
Defender Arin Wright seconded Naeher’s thoughts on the building of the chemistry of the group, pointing out the advantage of having an influx of young talent with the veteran players.
“Which is kind of a good dynamic to have because you’ve got people who know a lot about the league and you’ve got a lot of people who are eager to learn and are super, just excited to be here,” said Wright. Which creates a good, conducive environment for creating a team, especially such a new team with a new coach, trying to find a new identity. It’s just a good balance of everything.
“I think Chris has done a great job of coming in and he hasn’t tried to shake too many things up. He’s let everything kind of unfold slowly, which has created a good dynamic between us and him and a good working relationship and I think we’re at a good place, and I think we’re building in the right direction.”
Petrucelli has been mindful with his crafting of the club’s overall dynamic, making sure not to make any of those major moves as he begins to get adjusted to players both rookies and veterans.
“I had to be gentle in the way that I approach change and the way I looked at things and respectful of what’s been done here in the past, the success they’ve had in the past, the success the players have had in the past,” said Petrucelli. “Then, again, all of the new players, we’re spending a good amount of time trying to develop what our style of play is and really imprint that; a little bit of what our culture is like and what it’s going to be.
“With a bunch of new players, you can do some of those things. It just takes time.”