On April 19, over 80 players and parents from FC Wisconsin Eclipse were part of a 10,000+ Toyota Park crowd watching the 2014 National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) opener of the Chicago Red Stars.
The game was entertaining and closely contested, with the Red Stars pulling out a tough 1-0 win over the 2013 NWSL Finalists on a Julie Johnson corner kick goal in the second half. International stars from Spain, Canada, and the United States were scattered across the field on both teams - providing an opportunity for the young players in the stands to see what is required to play at the highest levels in the world.
The NWSL is now considered the top professional women's league in the world, and features 9 teams across the United States. The Chicago Red Stars have a very strong Eclipse flavor - with Head Coach Rory Dames the Director of Illinois Eclipse, Assistant Coach Christian Lavers the Director of Wisconsin Eclipse, and Assistant Coach Trae Manny the GK Director of Illinois Eclipse. Beyond that, two former Eclipse youth players (Jackie Santacaterina and Rachel Quon) are regulars in the Red Star line-up.
"The very best youth players take the time to watch professional soccer - both men's and women's," said FC Wisconsin Eclipse coach Andy Lee. "It is a great opportunity for our players to be able to watch in person some of the best players in the world. When they can also hear from our staff on a regular basis what helped those players get to the professional level, and the trials and challenges that anyone goes through in becoming great, it is a really unique learning experience."
"Not only is it a great learning experience for young players to watch a professional game live, it is an even better experience to do it with your club members and teammates," said Christian Lavers. "Spending time together and sharing fun moments off the field is part of what it takes to build a club of aspiring players - people who share the same goals, dreams, and experiences. These are the people who will push, challenge, and support each other in chasing and accomplishing their dreams every day on the training field."