Red Stars, Sarah Gorden make NWSL history

The Red Stars made NWSL history by becoming the first franchise to make six consecutive trips to the postseason.

SHARE Red Stars, Sarah Gorden make NWSL history
AP21100350367356.jpg

AP

Sarah Gorden has many titles.

She’s a mother, a daughter, a teammate, and one of the best defenders in the NWSL. After the 2021 NWSL regular season in which she played every minute of every match, she earned Chicago’s first Iron Woman award.

“I’m lucky to be able to put my body through that,” Gorden said. “I do listen to my body, I’m not crazy, but every time it was a game day, I felt ready to go.”

Gorden said she gave herself five minutes to be emotional about receiving the award. It made her think back to her rookie year in the league, when she wasn’t starting and only playing limited minutes for the Red Stars. Instead of being deterred by that, Gorden remained committed to the game and ways she could improve her play.

She invested in her mental health, which positively impacted her performance, and led to improvement every year. This year, she was tasked with playing a new position and taking on a more prominent leadership role when Julie Ertz went down with an MCL injury.

Ahead of the 2021 season, coach Rory Dames talked with Gorden about his expectations for her at outside back. After Ertz’s injury, Gorden was moved to center back. She didn’t expect to play the entire 2021 season at that position, which kept her in a state of limbo mentally and physically.

“At [the beginning of the season], I was doing fitness after games,” Gorden said. “I was thinking I had to get a lot more miles in because you run a lot more at outside back. At that time, I was looking forward to going back to outside back.”

Gorden said there was some disappointment in her position changing because of the groove she had found playing outside back. She eventually settled into the mentality that she’ll be ready to play wherever the team needs her. That mentality has contributed significantly to her identity as a natural leader.

“Whenever we’re going into three-game weeks, everybody talks about who gets rest,” Kealia Watt said after the Red Stars’ 1-0 victory against the Orlando Pride last week. “Sarah is never even part of the conversation. She is so tough. I truly don’t know how she does it. We would not be where we are without Sarah.”

The Red Stars made NWSL history when they secured their sixth consecutive playoff appearance, becoming the first franchise to make six consecutive trips to the postseason. They will play Gotham FC in a quarterfinal match at 2 p.m. Sunday SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

Gotham FC is coached by former Red Stars assistant Scott Parkinson and boasts one of the most dynamic attacking lines in the league, led by Midge Purce and Carli Lloyd. The challenge will be slowing them down, controlling possession and winning the one-on-one battles.

Gorden said the Red Stars’ backline lives for this kind of matchup. The league announced Wednesday the upcoming expansion draft will be held Dec. 16 in Los Angeles. This draft will be for the two expansion teams — Angel City FC and a team in San Diego — joining the league in2022. Last year, the Red Stars avoided a significant roster shake-up from the 2020 expansion draft by trading forwards Savannah McCaskill and Yuki Nagasato to Racing Louisville in exchange for full roster protection.

It will be nearly impossible to secure that type of roster protection with two teams participating in this year’s expansion draft. Gorden says that the 2022 Red Stars roster likely will look different.

“We all know it’s going to get crazy in the offseason, and it's completely out of our control,” Gorden said. “The group is probably going to change. A lot of teams are going to change. If we want this group to win, this is the time.”

The Latest
With grants for owners of homes and rental properties and a program for owners of storefronts and residential buildings, Garcia hopes to buy time to face the larger problem putting pressure on Chicago property taxes: inadequate state funding for public schools.
The student had been showing the gun to classmates at Chute Middle School, but the staff were able to take the gun from the student “without incident,” Evanston police said in a statement.
Brady signed a 10-year deal with Fox last May to become the network’s top analyst. Brady said that he didn’t want to immediately rush into announcing and that he wanted to catch up on some other parts of his life.
Movie customers will be charged more to sit in the middle of the theater, and less to sit in the front row.
Nine mayoral candidates are vying to be your pick on Feb. 28. Read our profiles of each contender here.