Red Stars establishing an identity anchored by standard past players set

“It’s really important for us to be able to continue to maintain what they started, what it means to be a Red Star,’’ captain and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said.

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2023 SheBelieves Cup - Brazil v United States

Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The Red Stars are in pretty unfamiliar territory.

One of the original franchises that formed the National Women’s Soccer League in 2013, they have made a league-record seven consecutive playoff appearances and reached the NWSL title game in 2019 and 2021, losing both times.

Scandals and the departures of five franchise stalwarts now have the Red Stars facing a rebuild, but the veterans who remain are committed to maintaining the standard set by past players.

‘‘There’s a rich history of amazing players who have come through the Red Stars,’’ captain and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said. ‘‘It’s really important for us to be able to continue to maintain what they started, what it means to be a Red Star.’’

Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo, two players who understand what it means to be a Red Star, returned to SeatGeek Stadium on Saturday for the first time since signing with the Kansas City Current during the offseason. The Red Stars (1-2-0) won 4-2 behind two goals by Penelope Hocking.

‘‘Vanessa was a huge piece of the Red Stars,’’ Naeher said.

Despite the exits of DiBernardo, Gautrat, Sarah Gorden, Julie Ertz and Danny Colaprico via trades and free agency the last two offseasons, the Red Stars still have players capable of maintaining the standard Naeher described.

Defender Casey Krueger, the Red Stars’ longest-tenured player, is back after giving birth to a son last July. She is joined on the back line by Tierna Davidson.

But Naeher knows the Red Stars won’t establish their identity on the field alone.

‘‘Some of it is setting a standard by how you train, how you take care of your body, health, fitness and recovery,’’ Naeher said. ‘‘All of those things matter. Trying to instill the best behavioral patterns of preparation to be ready to go on the field. Then there’s always going to be the off-the-field element.

‘‘There’s a lot of new faces here. It’s important to create that culture, getting to know one another as people, not just as teammates, because those things go a long way in building the cohesion of the group.’’

The U.S. women’s national team will play its final exhibition game July 9 before beginning its pursuit of a fifth World Cup title later that month. That will give Naeher about a dozen matches with the Red Stars before she likely will be called to national-team duty.

Red Stars forward Mallory Swanson was a lock to make the World Cup roster before suffering a torn patellar tendon in her left knee in the USWNT’s exhibition game April 8 against Ireland, and Davidson and Krueger might be in the running for roster spots, too, despite their very recent returns to the player pool.

Davidson played in her first game with the national team in 13 months Tuesday after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament during training in March 2022.

So whether Naeher will be the only player the Red Stars will be missing during the World Cup or whether they also will be without Krueger and Davidson, they are confident in the new foundation they are building.

‘‘Yeah, it’s going to be a time of transition, but it’s important for us to maintain that connection to the veteran players that came before us,’’ Naeher said.

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