Chicago Red Stars carry momentum, culture shift, into game day

Chicago Red Stars defender Tierna Davidson sports the club’s 2019 home kit revealed on Sunday, April 14. (Twitter/Chicago Red Stars)

by Sandra Herrera

 

As the Red Stars prepare to take on Portland Thorns FC this weekend for their home opener, they will be carrying with them the momentum of a rather groundbreaking week for the club.

Chicago kicked off their season earning a point on the road against current NWSL champions, North Carolina Courage. Playing low and patient, the Red Stars were able to play the relentlessly shot-happy champions to a 1-1 draw thanks to a goal by Sam Kerr that was set up by Yuki Nagasato.

Chicago Style

After getting their first result of the season, the club sent shockwaves through the online soccer community and set media buzzing with their recent kit reveal. The Red Stars new home kit, “Elevated,” is inspired by the city’s iconic rail train system, the “L,” and pays tribute to the city the team represents.

A months-long project, in collaboration with the club’s front offices and creative agency The Times Chicago, led to an invite-only event hosted at Blind Barber where the kit was introduced with a video featuring players Casey Short, Julie Ertz, and Sarah Gorden.

Jerseys were initially available for sale at the event with them eventually going live to the public online that same evening. Adult jersey sizes immediately began selling out and as soon as a secondary pre-order was made available, those same sizes were sold out again.

Views In The City

The buzz around the kit reveal was only matched by midweek news for the Red Stars as they announced a broadcast partnership with NBC Sports Chicago

NWSL is a nine-team professional women’s soccer league and the Red Stars are one of two teams to have such a partnership in place for the 2019 season. While the deal ensures another avenue for Red Stars games, it will also be an outlet for the league as all other matches are streamed via Yahoo Sports.

NBC Sports Chicago will be providing local coverage of each Red Stars home game and will air all remaining 23 games throughout their network.

Subscribers will also be able to view streams of Red Stars games online at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive. The first of these games to air will be Chicago’s home opener against Portland and the new partnership marks the Red Stars as the very first women’s professional team to receive coverage at the network.

Changing The Game

As game day approaches for the Red Stars, it’s hard to ignore what could possibly be a cultural shift for Chicago’s women’s pro soccer team.

A team that has been a decade in existence and has navigated their way through different variations of women’s pro soccer leagues, is now one of the longest operating women’s pro soccer clubs in the U.S. Throughout their history they have seen numerous players rep the crest, have played in different stadiums and, in 2017 even underwent a rebrand in an effort to grow the team, sport, and league in a major American metropolitan city.

While attendance has been an ongoing work in progress for the majority of NWSL clubs, the Red Stars aren’t strangers to those narratives either. Similar to the Chicago Fire, playing games in Bridgeview, Ill. has had its challenges. While the clubs are not partners or affiliated in any official capacity, they do share time on the same pitch and facilities, and have at times shared similar threads in the difficulties of a commute for city dwellers.

The work is always constant for a growing women’s soccer league. The buzz around a new jersey and a new broadcast partner that holds the prospect of an NWSL team being aired in sports bars and other establishments throughout the city is a huge opportunity for the Red Stars, one that could finally help shift the way women’s professional sports are viewed in Chicago.

 

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