Alyssa Naeher and the Chicago Red Stars will be back at SeatGeek Stadium on Sept. 17 for the first time since Aug. 5. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Alyssa Naeher and the Chicago Red Stars will be back at SeatGeek Stadium on Sept. 17 for the first time since Aug. 5. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Red Stars return to SeatGeek but long-term future a question mark

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By Jeff Vorva

After a long absence, the Chicago Red Stars will finally be playing a game at SeatGeek Stadium again.

The Red Stars host Angel City at 5 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Bridgeview facility for the first time since Aug. 5. International breaks and other scheduling quirks have kept the team away from its home stadium but now the Red Stars are back and the Geek will be festive for this one.

It’s being billed as a World Cup Welcome Back match presented by Sloan.

Fans have the opportunity to view a part of history as the legendary 1999 Women’s World Cup trophy will be on display at the Gate C Plaza before the match.

Inside the stadium, fans can participate in a scavenger hunt for small USWNT figurines that will be hidden throughout the stadium.

Once found, fans can bring the figurines to Red Stars HQ, located on the concourse level, to win a special prize or in-game experience including a photo on the pitch following the match.

In the main event of the day, the match itself, the Red Stars take on Angel City in a matchup that will include five players who played in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Cheyna Matthews (Jamaica) and Alyssa Naeher (United States) represented the Red Stars. Angel City features Jun Endo (Japan), Julie, Ali Riley (New Zealand) and Alyssa Thompson (United States).

Julie Ertz, a former Red Stars standout who played for Angel City this year, would have been the sixth, but she retired at the end of August.

Matthews and Naeher are settling back in with the team after their layoff. The first few days back in August were scorching.

“So, the first things were getting used to the heat and the trainings again,” Matthews said. “Then going to North Carolina [Aug. 27] and having that be my first game back. It was definitely hot.”

“Yeah, it’s been great,” Naeher added. “I think I took the week to get back and to get readjusted, timewise, and get my body back. It’s been good to get back with the team and get back in the group. They were obviously working hard while we were gone, and we’ll just be working hard to build from that momentum they were they were continuing to grow. So, it’s been good to get back in with the group.”

Through 18 games, the Red Stars (6-10-2) are in 11th place in the 12-team National Women’s Soccer League standings with 20 points. With four games to go, the Red Stars are six points away from sixth place, which is the final playoff spot.

If they win out, they will finish the season with 32 points. The last time the Red Stars missed the playoffs was 2014.

Angel City is also in the mix with 24 points.

Red Stars/Seat Geek future?

A new ownership group, headed by Laura Ricketts, purchased the team and where the Red Stars will play their home games in the future is up in the air.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Red Stars are locked into SeatGeek Stadium through the 2025 season. Ricketts told the Tribune that the group will be looking into the situation.

The team is last in the NWSL in attendance so far this year, averaging 4,033 fans through eight games.

“We have to evaluate that and look at it honestly,” Ricketts told the Tribune. “They need better practice facilities and need some investment there, definitely. Not only is it challenging to get down there [to Bridgeview], but just in general ultimately seeing them have some better facilities.”

Praising Ertz

Ertz’s retirement brings back memories for Red Stars fans and former teammates. She played with Chicago from 2014-2021 with 95 appearances and six goals. She also made more than 120 appearances for the United States.

“I’ve shared the field with Julie for the last 10 years,” Naeher said. “I think she’s an incredible player, she’s left her mark on the game for sure, and she’s done a lot for the Red Stars in her time here. It was six, seven years that she was with Chicago, obviously her national team resumé speaks for itself, and I’m proud to have shared the field with her.”

Swanson still mending

Injured Red Stars goal machine Mallory Swanson recently threw out the ceremonial first pitch to her husband, Dansby, before a Cubs game but don’t expect her to be on the pitch soon.

The 25-year-old Swanson suffered a knee injury in April and missed the World Cup and much of the NWSL season, is still on the mend and the possibility of her returning to the Red Stars in 2023 is remote.

“We’ve never put a timeline on Mal. Actually, we still haven’t discussed a timeline with her,” Red Stars coach Chris Petrucelli said. “Obviously, we’re running out of games here, but I don’t know that I’m the right person to ask. I don’t know the exact protocol of her rehab. I know at this point she’s running on one of those antigravity machines.

“She’s not running on ground yet, so it may be a reach for her to be back in time, but I’m not ready to put a put a timeline on that. Probably the next two or three weeks will give us a real indication of where Mal will be at.”

Oh, Canada

Red Stars midfielder, Bianca St-Georges, has been called up to join the Canadian Women’s National Tea for its coming CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying matches in Kingston, Jamaica and Toronto, Canada.

This is the second international call-up for St-Georges this year and the first since February, when the midfielder was invited to Canada’s camp prior to the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, but ultimately was not selected to be a part of the team’s roster for the tournament.

Canada will play the Jamaican Women’s National Team in Kingston, Jamaica Sept. 22, and again Sept. 26, in Toronto.

Fire II comes back for win

The Chicago Fire returned to action Sept. 10 after a week off and enjoyed a come-from-behind 3-2 victory at Sporting KC II in an MLS Next Pro battle.

KC scored two straight goals in the first 20 minutes before Luka Prpa nailed a pair of penalty kicks and Dylan Borso picked up what turned out to be the winner in the 58th minute. It was Borso’s first NEXT Pro game.

The Fire (9-8-9) finishes up the home portion of the regular season hosting Orlando City B at 5 p.m. Sept. 15 at SeatGeek Stadium.

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