With many of NWSL’s international players leaving their clubs for World Cup duty, squad depth means everything in the league right now.
That leaves the Chicago Red Stars in a strong position heading into the summer. With a number of quality B-teamers and reserves to call on, Chicago, perhaps more than any other team, are seeing this World Cup summer as an opportunity to take advantage of rather than a burden to carry. Players who had been previously cast as spot starters and second half substitutes are now finding themselves in starring roles— and with that, the chance to prove that they deserve more minutes once the big names come back.
In the wake of several recent stand-out performances— most notably in Week 5 against the North Carolina Courage, in which she scored the go-ahead goal— we sat down for a chat with Red Stars forward Michele Vasconcelos.
The goal you scored against North Carolina was pretty great. What was going through your head in the build-up to it?
I have just been trying to be more dangerous in creating chances, so as I saw the space and took my touch, I knew I had to get the shot off. I was a little surprised it went in to be honest.
The Red Stars are at a challenging part of the season, with a number of players either having already left for World Cup duty or leaving very shortly. What’s the mood among your teammates right now? How are you feeling heading into this long WC summer?
We have a good feeling among the group. We know that we need to raise the level of trainings with those players gone or leaving soon. Everyone wants to work hard and push to be the best that we can. I’m excited about this next phase because it gives this group a chance to take some points and put the team in a good spot so when those players do come back, we can be pushing for a playoff spot.
To follow on from the previous question-- how do you see your role (on and off the pitch) in the team right now?
All of us need to step into bigger roles this year which is always good for growth but I just want to be ready to do whatever I am asked to do when the times comes. I feel more integrated this year into the team, I was a little shy last year! My rookie season, I was just coming off my pregnancy and was adapting to the game of soccer, so not only was I trying to train and play at a high quality again, but learning the pace of the NWSL compared to college ranks.
Are there any teammates you have a particularly strong bond with?
I feel a lot closer to everyone this year. I’ve had fun getting to know all the girls and I’ve had good laughs with all of them. Obviously, Sarah [Gorden] and I are in a similar place with kids so that is nice to have her and we get each other more because of that.
What’s your favorite memory of playing for the Red Stars right now?
Probably the Mother’s Day game just because of the significance of the day and getting a goal was pretty special.
What are you reading/watching/listening to lately?
Basically whatever Scarlett wants to watch... which is Cars, Trolls or Coco. You would think she would get sick of them. But when she goes to bed I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books and I am obsessed!