The injury to Mallory Swanson, shown shooting against Houston in her only game at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview this year, was a key in the team finishing in last place in the NWSL. Photo by Jeff Vorva

The injury to Mallory Swanson, shown shooting against Houston in her only game at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview this year, was a key in the team finishing in last place in the NWSL. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Red Stars Review | Swanson injury hurt season

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

Was the Chicago Red Stars season doomed on April 8 in Austin, Texas?

In a game they didn’t even play in?

That’s when and where super-scorer Mallory Swanson, playing for the U.S. national team in a friendly against Ireland, was carried off the pitch on a stretcher after suffering a torn patella tendon.

Some commentators have said her injury hurt the U.S.’s chance of winning the World Cup this summer. Around here, it can be speculated that it helped the Red Stars miss the playoffs and to finish last in the NWSL.

To be fair, while this season was a disappointment, it was not a total disaster. The league was parity-filled, and the Red Stars’ record of 7-12-3 was not all that terrible. They were able to stay mathematically afloat in the playoff hunt until the 21st game of the 22-game season.

But last place is last place.

And missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014 was not a good look for a team that picked up a new ownership during the season. Second-year coach Chris Petrucelli was whacked heading into the final game and assistant Ella Masar took the helm on an interim basis for the final game, a 3-0 loss to OL Reign on Oct. 14.

Masar believes Swanson’s injury did have an impact. Swanson had 11 goals in 13 appearances last year for the Red Stars and one goal in two appearances this year before the injury.

“I think you can compare Mal to Messi in the format she was in,” Masar said.  “We also lost three of our four starting midfielders. It’s been so much of a whirlwind.

“I think there was no time to set a base and a structure. We’ve had to rely on a younger team this year. We’ve come a long way.

“We’re third in goals scored; everyone had to step up and we’ve done that. We’ve had to fix a little bit defensively that we’ve done all year, but we’re really proud of everyone.”

ELLA MASAR scaled

Red Stars interim coach Ella Masar said the team needs one more reboot to get back on track. Photo by Jeff Vorva

She noted the team beat playoff teams in Gotham and San Diego, the latter of which finished first in the standings.

Figure on a lot of changes in the offseason. That includes filling the roles of come of the executive decision makers, a new coach and new players.

And some will be leaving.

Red Stars eligible for free agency are Swanson, Emily Boyd, Tierna Davidson, Casey Krueger, Yuki Nagasato, Cari Roccaro, Kayla Sharples, Bianca St-Georges and Ella Stevens.

With several young players locked in, the Red Stars may need a veteran presence around them to move forward in the right direction, Masar said.

“I think we need one more reboot,” she said. “To be honest — and this is just coming from my heart to Chicago — I think we need one more reboot of getting a little bit more of a veteran group in. We’re so young we’re asking these 24-, 25-year-olds, when you barely played at that point, to step up and fill these huge roles.

“I think we need one-more little bit of a shift of some different players and then we’ll be good again. It’s going to be a crazy offseason, whether you get two (free agents) or whether you get five. Sit back get your popcorn and see what happens.”

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