Client: Chicago Red Stars

Source: CBS News

CHICAGO (CBS) – Last year, the Chicago Red Stars finished in last place out of 12 NWSL teams, but that was without their best player, who was out for the season before it even started.

The Red Stars appear reenergized and rejuvenated as they gear up for a bounce-back this year with a new ownership group, a new head coach, and their big star back on the pitch.

“I think it’s great. I think it’s fantastic,” said head coach Lorne Donaldson. “I got a bunch of enthused players who are ready to go. Coaching staff is eager. Let’s get it on.”

Forward Mallory Swanson is back after missing almost all of last season with a torn patella tendon, and she’s in Chicago for the long term. She recently signed the richest deal in NWSL history to stay with the Red Stars through the 2028 season.

“I’m super excited,” Swanson said. “I think really what Laura Ricketts has going on in the ownership group is super special and I’m just excited just to get started with the team.”

The Red Stars have a new ownership group led by Ricketts to go with their first-year head coach Donaldson. They’re intent on turning the page after being part of an abuse scandal that rocked the league and led to the ouster of both a former coach, Rory Dames, and their former owner.

“I’m really focused on the players and my staff,” said Karen Leetzow, the Red Stars new president. “I think they need to have a different experience here in Chicago, and I think they need to feel it every single day. For us, it starts with having sort of the same cultural pillars, and you heard Lauren talk about one of them, accountability, transparency. We’re trying to bring joy back to the game to get us back to a championship level.”

Swanson added, “It’s no secret that the past is the past, but everything’s new, and new can be kind of scary sometimes, but I think so far it’s been … really refreshing and exciting.”

Swanson hopes that excitement leads to more wins on the field and a return to the playoffs.