Vanessa DiBernardo will not re-sign with Red Stars

DiBernardo became a free agent following the 2022 NWSL season and informed the club that drafted her with the fourth overall pick in 2014 she plans to sign elsewhere.

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Vanessa DiBernardo was drafted by the Red Stars in 2014 with the fourth overall pick.

Vanessa DiBernardo was drafted by the Red Stars in 2014 with the fourth overall pick.

Ashley Landis/AP

Vanessa DiBernardo, the Red Stars’ longest-tenured player, will not be re-signing with the franchise, a league source told the Sun-Times Monday afternoon.

DiBernardo became a free agent following the 2022 NWSL season and informed the club that drafted her with the fourth overall pick in 2014 she plans to sign elsewhere. Where she plans to sign is expected to be announced by the end of the week.

DiBernardo graduated from Waubonsie Valley High School before playing at the University of Illinois from 2010-2013, where she was a two-time All-American. The Red Stars captain has been a steady force on the team since entering the league in 2014. Last season she surpassed 10,000 minutes-played for the Red Stars in a match against the Washington Spirit.

In her nine seasons with the Red Stars, she’s played in 155 matches and started in 140.

“Chicago will forever have a place in my heart, but it’s time for me to start a new chapter in my career. Being a Red Star for the past 9 seasons has been more meaningful than I could have ever imagined,” DiBernardo said. “I’m thankful to many people who have supported me on my journey, but I especially want to thank my teammates for making my time in Chicago so special.”

Free agency is a new development in the NWSL with Aug. 26 marking the beginning of the league’s first-ever free agency period. The NWSL and the Players Association agreed to their first-ever collective bargaining agreement ahead of the 2022 season. The CBA introduced higher salaries, health benefits and free agency.

DiBernardo’s news comes on the heels of three other departures. Midfielder Danielle Colaprico and forward Rachel Hill both signed with San Diego FC. Midfielder Morgan Gautrat informed the team that she will not be re-signing with the organization and has yet to announce her new team.

Colaprico was drafted by the Red Stars in 2015 with the ninth overall pick. Gautrat joined the Red Stars in 2017 in a trade with the Houston Dash and Hill joined the club in 2020 via trade with the Orlando Pride.

The Red Stars currently have 18 players under contract for the 2023 season.

The departure of three of the most influential players in Red Stars franchise history marks a significant turning point for the club.

Longtime owner Arnim Whisler was named in an explosive report by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates that detailed systemic abuse in the league — including his organization. His knowledge of verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of former coach Rory Dames was exposed, leading to his decision to sell the franchise. Whisler has engaged New York City investment bank Inner Circle Sports to facilitate the sale.

“We understand this is an important time for new leadership and it is with a heavy heart that we have made the decision to start the process of selling the team,” Whisler said in part.

His statement, released Monday morning didn’t reveal plans for the organization’s future but there’s a hope that it will remain in Chicago.

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