Chicago Red Stars

Lincoln-Way HS hosts D-Wade's summer camp featuring Khalil Mack, others

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USA TODAY

Lincoln-Way HS hosts D-Wade's summer camp featuring Khalil Mack, others

On Saturday, day two of Dwyane Wade’s Celebrity Sports Academy took place in southwest suburbs of Chicago with some very special guests on-hand.

The event took place over four days in July. The first part of the camp took place in Miami on July 6 and 7, with the second part taking place in Chicago on July 19 and 20 at Lincoln-Way Central High School. 

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The 3x Champ was here today 💪🏻

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Over the two days Wade and co. worked with campers on a variety of athletics skills tied to basketball, soccer, football, and cheer. The camps primarily focused on the fundamentals and life lessons that can be learned through sports.

Wade always promises to come through with great guests for the youth during the Celebrity Sports Academy and he definitely produced this weekend.

Some of the great guests that came through over the two days in Chicago included (but weren’t limited to): Chicago Red Stars defender Arin Wright, Sky forward Cheyenne Parker and Bears linebacker Khalil Mack.

The Wade Sports Academy ultimately strives to “develop the physical side of our young athletes, but also that of their mental game and personal confidence.” They continued to do all they could to meet that goal this summer and you can ultimately call the first year of the program with post-NBA retirement D-Wade at the helm a success, with the help of some of Chicago’s top athletes.

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Chicago Red Stars enter third straight playoff appearance with 'higher expectations'

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Chicago Red Stars

Chicago Red Stars enter third straight playoff appearance with 'higher expectations'

The Chicago Red Stars have been one of the most consistent teams in the National Women’s Soccer League’s existence.

This season, the Red Stars earned a third straight playoff berth. Only Portland has made the playoffs more times in the league’s five years.

“It’s the hardest league in the world so we don’t take it for granted to be able to get into the playoffs,” coach Rory Dames said. “The consistency of the group has been exceptional and we’ve gradually added some pieces to try to take us over the hump.”

But something has been missing: playoff success. Each of the last two years the Red Stars have lost in the semifinals. They are hoping the third time is the charm when they visit the defending league champs and top seed North Carolina Courage on Sunday.

North Carolina posted a league-high 16 wins, but three of the team’s seven losses came at the hands of the Red Stars. The Red Stars won all three meetings between the two teams.

“It helps confidence wise, but we know they want us pretty bad as well,” said defender Casey Short, who also joked North Carolina is “not fun to go against.”

Dames admitted the three wins weren’t all clear cut, even going as far as to say a tie would have been fair in the second meeting and that the Red Stars stole a win the third time the teams played.

“We’ve learned in three years now... that it makes no difference what went on during the season,” Dames said. “This is a one-off. They’ll have some different things they’re going to do. We’ll have some different things that we’re going to do. It will be whatever goes on in those 90 minutes that determine who goes onto the final, not what’s gone on during the regular season.”

On paper, the Red Stars have more big names with five World Cup winners on the roster, Americans Christen Press, Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Morgan Brian and Japanese forward Yuki Nagasato. Nagasato and Brian arrived during the season with injuries and Dames said they are “a little bit behind” in integrating them into the team because of the time they’ve missed. Brian is expected to be out for the semifinal, but could play in the final if the Red Stars make it, according to Dames.

The big game experience on the team should in theory be a boost to a team hungry to improve upon recent playoff failures.

“I don’t know if we’re any more motivated than we were the last two years,” Dames said. “I think there’s more growth, there’s more experience there’s more understanding of how to handle this kind of game, this kind of situation, how you prepare for it.

“I think there’s a different level of confidence, a little bit more experience and a little bit higher expectations.”

Last year’s overtime loss at Washington was especially tough for the Red Stars.

“We want to make this year count,” Short said. “Last year was definitely a heartbreaker as well so we want to change our fate this year for sure.”

Red Stars enter 2017 season hoping to get past semifinal barrier

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Chicago Red Stars | Annex | @multimarz

Red Stars enter 2017 season hoping to get past semifinal barrier

For each of the past two seasons the Chicago Red Stars have been knocked out in the National Women's Soccer League's semifinals.

Instead of reinforcing the team with a number of new players in the hopes of upgrading the roster, the Red Stars are staying the course, hoping what was a young team last year can improve without many changes. Of the Red Stars' 20-player roster, 17 players are back from last season and four are U.S. national teamers (Christen Press, Julie Ertz (Johnston), Alyssa Naeher and Casey Short). Naeher, who turns 29 on April 20, is the oldest player on the team.

The Red Stars unveiled new jerseys and new branding for the season, which starts Saturday at Houston with the home opener a week later at Toyota Park.

Getting past the semifinals

In 2015, the Red Stars hosted a semifinal against FC Kansas City, but exited in unceremonious fashion with a 3-0 loss. Last year the Red Stars fell at the Washington Spirit 2-1 in extra time.

"It's definitely disappointing to come away with a loss in the semifinal and I think that we have the experience of playing in those semifinals and it's a lot of the same players," midfielder Danielle Colaprico said. "I think this is the year where we can really push to the final and hopefully win it."

Name change for a big name player

As a starter on the 2015 World Cup-winning national team Julie Johnston's name has some recognition. She is now going by Julie Ertz after getting married to Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz in late March.

"Having Johnston for 25 years of my life was such a huge part of me," Ertz said. "It's pretty cool to have Zach also be a professional athlete and I think having that last name together it's kind of a football, football kind of connection that we have. He's been there since I started my professional career and same with him as well. We've grown on and off the field together. I know it means a lot to him, as much as it does to me, and showing our marriage to become one."

National team quartet

The Red Stars have four players listed as allocated national teamers for the upcoming season. Only Portland, with five, has more. Press, Ertz and Naeher were all on the 2015 World Cup team. Defender Casey Short joined the list of allocated national teamers this year, having become a regular since the new cycle began after the Olympics.

"She got to go against typical national team players, especially on her side as a left back, and she's been great," Ertz said of Short. "She's learned and grown in any role that (coach) Rory (Dames) had her play, that the team had her play. She's loving it. She's doing great so we're just proud of her."

Returning core

The Red Stars bring back 10 of the 11 starters from the semifinal loss at Washington, including leading goal scorers Press (8 goals) and Sofia Huerta (7 goals) and assist leader Vanessa DiBernardo (7 assists). Press and defender Arin Gilliland were named to the league's Best XI while Naeher, Ertz, Short, Colaprico and DiBernardo were named to the second team.

"I think in years past our team actually overperformed for what we had," Press said. "I think we're really proud of that and going into this season I think the group is so much more solid and for us it's very much in our goal and in our realm and reason to win a championship this season."

Press isn't alone in this view. NWSL Media voted the Red Stars as the top ranked team entering the season.


Newcomers

With so many players back there aren't many newcomers. Three players are new: draft picks Morgan Proffitt and Lauren Kaskie, both midfielders, and forward Summer Green.

Green, a former U.S. youth national team player, impressed the Red Stars this preseason to earn a roster spot. She was drafted by Seattle last year, but sat out the year with a knee injury, which kept her out for nine months.