One look at the Chicago Red Stars roster will show something a bit unusual: the oldest player on the team is 27 years old.
The Red Stars, which begin their fourth season in the National Women’s Soccer League Saturday at Houston, had four players over 30 last season. All four of them departed in the offseason, including U.S. Women’s National Team players Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx to retirement.
“I would not say 26 is old, but apparently it is,” joked midfielder Alyssa Mautz, who is entering her fifth season with the Red Stars. “I think it’s more so we’re able to cover more space. We have more athletes.”
The oldest player on the team is national team goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who turns 28 on April 20. Naeher, who was on the 2015 Women’s World Cup roster for the U.S., was acquired in the offseason.
“She is a huge addition for us,” forward Jen Hoy said. “She brings a lot of experience and composure to our team and our back line.
“She’s definitely a really great presence at the back.”
Naeher joins two teammates, forward Christen Press and defender Julie Johnston, from that World Cup roster. Press led the team with 10 goals in just 11 games last season.
Sofia Huerta had six goals in 2015 and will support Press in the attack along with Hoy, who had four goals and four assists. Those two will have to carry the offensive load while Press and the national teamers compete in the Olympics in August.
A few local additions will get to play in front of friends and family during home games at Toyota Park, where the Red Stars moved back to this season. Katie Naughton, a defender from Elk Grove and Notre Dame, was the Red Stars’ first pick in the draft. Fellow Chicago area products Courtney Raetzman and Sarah Gorden, both from Conant High School, are also rookies this year.
The Red Stars are hoping the youth movement will pay off and the team can improve on last year’s 8-3-9 record and go deeper in the playoffs. In 2015 the Red Stars made the playoffs for the first time in the NWSL before losing to eventual champion FC Kansas City in the semifinals.
“We’re happy we finally broke that barrier of getting to the playoffs,” Mautz said. “Our goal is to make the championship game.”
The home opener is April 23 against Western New York.