Casey Krueger is one of the Red Stars’ remaining stalwarts leading the club into the future

“The team is different than the past, but different isn’t necessarily bad.”

SHARE Casey Krueger is one of the Red Stars’ remaining stalwarts leading the club into the future
Red Stars defender Casey Krueger.

Red Stars defender Casey Krueger.

If Red Stars defender Casey Krueger is being completely honest, retirement crossed her mind around this time last year.

She was preparing for the birth of her first child, Caleb, born in July, and admittedly needed a mental break from soccer. So, during the early stages of her pregnancy, she took one.

“I did not watch soccer at all,” she said. “I completely removed myself. I was at a place where I needed to reevaluate whether this was something I still wanted to do or not.”

It didn’t matter that she’d spent her entire career up to that point competing with the U.S. women’s national team, including helping the team win bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, or that she was one of the Red Stars’ most accomplished players. She wasn’t going to be led by anything but her own desire to return.

Nearing the six-month mark of her pregnancy, she felt the first spark.

“It became very clear how much I missed it,” Krueger said. “I had that feeling that I still had so much more to give this game.”

She wasn’t sure what her timeline with the national team would look like. But after an honest conversation with coach Vlatko Andonovski before the SheBelieves Cup in February, she was reassured that despite not making that roster, there’d be another opportunity for her.

Last month, she rejoined the national team for her first camp since October 2021, ahead of two friendlies against Ireland in which she was joined by Red Stars teammates Alyssa Naeher, Tierna Davidson and Mallory Swanson. On April 11, Krueger earned her first cap in 17 months, coming on in the second half of the USWNT’s 1-0 win over Ireland.

“When I was in camp, [Andonovski and I] had another honest conversation, discussing how important the NWSL games are and how there are still 10 to 12 players fighting for six to seven spots [on the 2023 World Cup roster],” Krueger said.

Andonovski’s deadline for submitting that roster is July 10 — 10 days before the start of the tournament. But the roster is expected to be announced in late June, ahead of camp leading up to the USWNT’s send-off match July 9 in San Jose, California.

Contending for one of the few remaining World Cup spots isn’t unfamiliar territory for Krueger. This time around, though, she has a new perspective.

“My thought process this time is taking things one game at a time,” she said. “Realistically, I know it’s going to be tough. The pool of defenders is huge. But I’m excited for the challenge, honestly. I’m excited to have the biggest cheerleader in my corner. Whether I make it or not, [Caleb] is going to love me, and he’s going to cheer for me.”

Krueger has about a dozen matches remaining with the Red Stars before Andonovski’s roster announcement. The Red Stars’ young players characterize her as one of the trusted voices leading the team into a new era, even if she doesn’t necessarily see herself that way. (She modestly gives herself credit as a lead-by-example veteran.)

Losing Red Stars teammates such as Sarah Gorden, Julie Ertz and a cascade of players who left in free agency has been scary, Krueger admits. It was tough to imagine how the team would replace them.

Those holes have been filled, but the Red Stars are in ninth place in the 12-team NWSL with a 1-3 record.

“Every game, we’re going to learn and keep improving,” Krueger said. “The team is different than the past, but different isn’t necessarily bad.”

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