Client: Chicago Red Stars

Source: CBS Sports

After a three-month-long search, the Chicago Red Stars announced Lorne Donaldson as the club’s new head coach Wednesday.

Donaldson previously coached Jamaica’s women’s national team and led the team during their historic run to the knockout rounds in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Reggae Girlz became the first Caribbean nation to advance to the round of 16 during the tournament after previously making their first World Cup appearance in 2019.

He will be the third head coach in the Red Stars’ NWSL history and is set to join the club in January ahead of the 2024 NWSL Draft. The club currently has five picks in the upcoming draft, including the No. 3 overall selection, and recently hired former U.S. Soccer chief legal officer Karen Leetzow as new club president.

Donaldson’s legacy

Before starting his coaching career, Donaldson was a player in Kingston, Jamaica. He featured for the Jamaica national team before playing in Denver with Metropolitan State University. He’s been inducted into the University Hall of Fame and the Colorado Youth Soccer Hall of Fame.

The 68-year-old manager has coached various youth teams from club level to international level. He spent time as Jamaica’s U17 head coach and was a U20 and full national team assistant before being named fulltime head coach of the Reggae Girlz.

“Lorne is the right person to lead us next season,” said Leetzow. “Lorne’s experiences as a decorated player and as a winning coach on the youth, professional, and international level will be invaluable for our players, coaches, and staff who have the opportunity to learn from him.”

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Coaches Association of America. An initiative to bring African and Caribbean players and coaches a better understanding of American football culture.

“I’m excited to work with this talented team that includes some of the NWSL’s best players to turn the Chicago Red Stars into a championship club both on and off the pitch,” said Donaldson. “I look forward to partnering with Laura Ricketts and Karen Leetzow, who are committed to creating a culture of excellence and accountability. What I have most enjoyed in my career is coaching elite athletes and helping them reach and exceed their fullest potential.”

Another step in retaining Mal Swanson?

Donaldson’s extensive background at the youth club level is reflected in the prominent players he has coached with elite youth club Real Colorado.

“Lorne has a proven track record as a winning coach and an advocate for his athletes. We believe he has the experience and leadership skills to elevate our talented group of players,” said Laura Ricketts, Red Stars Executive Chairperson. “As the president of the elite youth club Real Colorado, Lorne also has deep ties to some of the finest U.S. players.”

As president and executive coaching director, Donaldson has helped shape the careers of multiple international and NWSL players. Janine Beckie (Portland Thorns FC) and Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC) have played their youth soccer with Real Colorado, as well as U.S. women’s national team forwards Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC) and Mallory Swanson.

Swanson is currently a free agent this offseason but has played with the Chicago Red Stars since 2021. She sustained an injury to her left knee in April, underwent successful surgery on her torn patella tendon, and is continuing her return-to-play protocols. Despite the injury cutting her 2023 season short, she closed out the year as the top scorer for the national team with just four months of play.

The 25-year-old forward and her husband, Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson, both play their professional careers in Chicago. Dansby signed a seven-year deal with the Cubs ahead of the 2023 season. Despite the want to play in a mutual market, free agency is always unpredictable, but the Donaldson hire by the Red Stars could be part of a pitch to further help retain Swanson’s attacking abilities.

What’s next

The 2024 NWSL Draft is set to take place in Anaheim, California at the United States Soccer Coaches Convention. With a new ownership group, club president, and now head coach, the Red Stars may finally have enough pieces to truly look ahead toward a rebuild. The NWSL 2024 regular season will kick off on March 16.