Red Stars players stress the club is moving forward at team’s media day

Since Rory Dames was allowed to resign in November, the organization has hired a new coach Chris Petrucelli, a human resources administrator who players can report any transgressions to and the traded captain Julie Ertz and local star Sarah Gorden to Angel City FC.

SHARE Red Stars players stress the club is moving forward at team’s media day
Arin Wright (center) expressed that the team is growing through changes they’re experiencing on the field and in the front office.

Arin Wright (center) expressed that the team is growing through changes they’re experiencing on the field and in the front office.

Matt Patterson/AP

A new era is upon the Chicago Red Stars organization and it’s one the players say is defined by change both in the front office and on the field.

Since Rory Dames was allowed to resign in November, the organization has hired a new coach Chris Petrucelli, a human resources administrator who players can report any transgressions to and the traded captain Julie Ertz and local star Sarah Gorden to Angel City FC.

Also traded before the new year were midfielder Nikki Stanton and forwards Makenzy Doniak, Katie Johnson and Kelsey Turnbow. Stanton was traded to OL Reign and Doniak, Johnson and Turnbow to San Diego FC.

“There was a lot of healing to be done,” defender Arin Wright said. “There was a lot of change and with change comes growth. That’s from a player standpoint and an organization standpoint. Our club has done a very good job of making changes to elevate this club and move beyond what has gone on.”

Thursday the club announced a new multiyear partnership with the bank and financial service company CIBC. The agreement includes CIBC becoming the Red Stars’ front of jersey sponsor and expanding the team’s community initiatives through the CRS Cares Foundation.

The team debuted their new jersey, dubbed the skyscraper kit, which they’ll wear at the home opener on April 30 against Racing Louisville.

The deconstruction of the Red Stars' veteran roster has led to one of the youngest groups — with seven rookies — ever fielded by the organization. Still, the team is anchored by veterans like Wright, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and midfielders Morgan Gautrat, Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo.

“Losing players like [Julie Ertz and Sarah Gorden] is never easy,” DiBernardo said. “We do have a big group of leaders and we all lead in different ways. That’s why we’ve been able to be so successful.”

DiBernardo added that the team is comprised of many young players who have spent years with the organization but haven’t seen expanded playing time because of who they were playing behind. Sharples and Bianca St. Georges are two of those players who could see their roles expand on the backline, especially considering Tierna Davidson suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Davidson tore her ACL in training back in March.

Since Dames’ resignation, which was immediately followed by reports of abusive behavior, principal owner and chairman Arnim Whisler has been largely out of sight aside from taking questions from select media in February. Whisler is also on the board of directors that the team’s chief business officer Vicky Lynch reports to with all happenings inside of the organization, including concerns expressed by players.

Lynch would not disclose who else is on that board of directors.

“I have weekly calls with the board where we spend two hours going through everything,” Lynch said. “They dedicate a lot of time to making sure we’re running the club the way it needs to be run.”

The Red Stars have one more match, on the road against the Kansas City Current on April 24 before the regular season begins on April 30.

Since the organization was established in 2007, it has been in regular playoff contention and made six straight playoff appearances from 2015-2020. The team made three straight league championship appearances from 2019-2021, playing for the NWSL Championship in 2019 and 2021 and the Challenge Cup championship in 2020.

Uncertainty surrounds the organization’s future success, but the players are confident their mentality will yield similar results seen in the past.

“At the end of the day we have a hard work ethic,” Sharples said. “We still haven’t brought a championship to this city. That’s something we’re still striving for.”

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